Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sumpter v. Moulton case brief

Sumpter v. Moulton case summary
519 N.W.2d 427 (Iowa 1994)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Plaintiff heart attack victim appealed from the judgment of the Iowa District Court for Appanoose County, which accepted the jury's verdict that defendant city's negligence in failing to maintain public ditches surrounding his property was not a proximate cause of the injuries he sustained after trying to clean the ditches himself.


-The heart attack victim sued the city after he suffered an attack while cleaning the public ditches near his home.
-The city had given the victim notice to cut the weeds on lots he owned.
-He claimed the city was negligent in failing to keep the ditches open and this omission caused his injury.
-The blocked ditches caused standing water that flooded his basement, and he tried to clear them when the city did not act.
-The jury returned a verdict finding the city negligent, but concluded that the negligence did not proximately cause the victim's injuries.
-He had a heart blockage, a problem was inevitable, and it could have happened any time.
-On appeal, the court reversed the judgment and remanded for a new trial.

-The jury instruction on superseding intervening cause was improper and prejudiced the victim's case.

-Ordinarily the victim's acts, if they were foreseeable as within the ambit of the hazards covered by the duty imposed on the defendant, did not break the chain of events that would relieve the defendant from liability.
-Jury instructions supported by the evidence were required to be given.
-Iowa used the substantial factor test in determinations of proximate cause.

CONCLUSION: The court reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case for a new trial.

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