Iowa Supreme Court holds that Retention of Expert Witness to Provide Services to Iowa Attorney is Sufficient to Establish Personal Jurisdiction

Posted on: March 7th, 2024

An Iowa attorney retained an orthopedic surgeon from Indiana to serve as an expert witness in a potential medical malpractice claim and paid an advance of $10,000.00. The parties had no written contract and upon reviewing the records, the surgeon opined that the standard of care was not breached in the underlying case and that he would keep the full $10,000.00 for 12 hours spent reviewing the case without providing any time records. The attorney filed for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, and fraud against the surgeon in Polk County, Iowa. The surgeon then filed a motion to dismiss.

The Supreme Court relied on the district court’s finding of fact that the surgeon had agreed “to provide expertise and expert testimony to Plaintiff for a cause of action in an Iowa forum.” The surgeon had never solicited or done business in Iowa, reviewed the potential case from his office in Indiana, and called the attorney in Iowa to report his findings and conclusions. The Court noted that the surgeon availed himself of the privilege of conducting business in the state of Iowa and agreed to provide testimony in a case that would have taken place in Iowa had it been pursued. Therefore, the attorney and surgeon’s agreement contemplated the possibility that the surgeon would perform part of the contract in Iowa. Although the surgeon had only performed services in Indiana, his services were intended to produce a result in Iowa and he could not escape personal liability for such actions. In setting this precedent and expressing a desire to protect the legitimate interest in adjudicating a contract for services to be performed in Iowa and involving a resident of Iowa, the Court noted, “Iowa law allows for the exercise of personal jurisdiction up to the federal constitutional limit.”

Marc Harding d/b/a Harding Law Firm v. Rick Sasso d/b/a Indiana Spine Group
Opinion Number: 21-1666
Date Published: Dec 15, 2023

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