Iowa Court of Appeals Reverses Lower Court’s Dismissal of Personal Injury Action

Posted on: November 8th, 2021

Plaintiff was a patient at a medical facility when she sustained injuries from a slip and fall. She initiated suit against the medical facility alleging various claims of negligence including professional negligence, negligent hiring and retention, lack of supervision by non-professional staff, and ordinary negligence. The medical facility moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for failure to file a certificate of merit affidavit in accordance with Iowa Code section 147.140. The district court granted the medical facility’s motion, dismissing Plaintiff’s Petition with prejudice, and Plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, Plaintiff argued the district court erred in dismissing all of her claims. She contended her Petition included claims of ordinary negligence such as premises liability that did not require filing an Iowa Code section 147.140 certificate of merit affidavit.

Pursuant to Iowa Code section 147.140, a plaintiff who alleges “personal injury or wrongful death against a health care provider based upon the alleged negligence in the practice of that profession or occupation or in patient care, which includes a cause of action for which expert testimony is necessary to establish a prima facie case,” is required to file “a certificate of merit affidavit signed by an expert witness with respect to the issue of standard of care and an alleged breach of the standard of care” within 60 days of the defendant’s Answer. Iowa Code section 147.140(1)(a). A plaintiff’s failure to substantially comply with this provision “shall result, upon motion, in dismissal with prejudice of each cause of action as to which expert witness testimony is necessary to establish a prima facie case.” Iowa Code section 147.140(6).

Reversing the district court, the Iowa Court of Appeals held Plaintiff’s claims of ordinary negligence including premises liability and lack of supervision by non-professional staff were improperly dismissed. The Court reasoned that claims of ordinary negligence not requiring expert testimony were not subject to the requirements of Iowa Code section 147.140. Since Plaintiff’s Petition included claims of ordinary negligence which may not require expert testimony to establish a prima facie case or filing a certificate of merit affidavit, the trial court erred in dismissing those claims.

Struck v. Mercy Health Services, No. 20-1228 (Iowa Ct. App. 2021).

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