Iowa Supreme Court Allows Cell Phone Use as Evidence of Habit

Posted on: June 17th, 2021

Miranda Pomeroy was driving westbound on Cumming Avenue while Matthew Holmes was riding his bicycle on a bike trail heading toward Cumming Avenue. Holmes turned onto Cumming Avenue and collided with Pomeroy’s vehicle, resulting in injuries to Holmes. Holmes sued, alleging negligence.

Pomeroy filed a motion in limine requesting the district court preclude Holmes from arguing that she has a habit of driving while distracted, based on her cell phone use over a three-year period. The district court ordered that Pomeroy’s cell phone use while driving, which occurred subsequent to the accident, was not admissible to prove a habit of distracted driving.

The jury returned its verdict for Pomeroy and Holmes appealed. The Iowa Supreme Court reviewed the issue of admissibility of Pomeroy’s cell phone use while driving as evidence of habit.

Legal authority exists for both positions. Some courts have held that conduct subsequent to the particular occasion is irrelevant as habit evidence, while other courts take the position that the relevance is not defeated due to its occurrence after the event in question.

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the district court’s ruling because the specific instances of cell phone use were not numerous enough to constitute habit evidence.

Holmes v. Pomeroy, No. 19-1162 (Iowa May 7, 2021).

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