Sunday, February 3, 2013

Weems v. Hy-Vee Food Stores, Inc. case brief

Weems v. Hy-Vee Food Stores, Inc. case summary
526 N.W.2d 571 (Iowa App. 1994)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Defendant store owner appealed an order from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, which denied its motion for a new trial after finding in favor of plaintiffs, a customer and his spouse, in plaintiffs' action to recover for injuries in a slip-and-fall action.

-The customer slipped and fell on a wet floor at the owner's store.
-Approximately 18 months later, the customer visited an orthopedic surgeon in response to his lingering lower-back pain.
-The surgeon administered an epidural block, which involved a spinal steroid injection.
-As a result, however, the customer developed an infection, which led to spinal meningitis.In their tort action against the owner, plaintiffs sought damages associated the customer's fall, including the spinal meningitis.
-The owner requested a jury instruction on whether the harmful side effects of the medical treatment constituted an intervening superseding cause of the subsequent damages.
-The trial court refused to give the instruction, and the jury found in favor of plaintiffs.
-The trial court also denied the owner's motion for a new trial.
-On appeal, the court affirmed.


The court held that it was not possible to conclude that the epidural block treatment was a superceding cause.

The epidural block was an accepted and common treatment for chronic back pain, and spinal meningitis was a known risk of the procedure.
-Thus, the medical treatment was not an extraordinary or unforeseeable act.


An intervening act is reasonably foreseeable, and will not break the causal connection between the original negligence and the later injury, if the subsequent force or conduct is within the scope of the original risk. It is unnecessary, however, that the original tortfeasor foresee the specific conduct which makes up the intervening force. It is sufficient if the risk of harm attributable to the intervening act is foreseeable. If the conduct of the original tortfeasor has created or increased the risk of a particular harm to the plaintiff, and has been a substantial factor in causing the harm, it is immaterial to the imposition of liability that the harm results in a manner which no person could have possibly foreseen or anticipated.

The court affirmed the order.

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