On December 6, 2019, a high-school wrestler and his parents filed their first lawsuit against the Patterson Law Firm’s client, who was a referee at a high school wrestling tournament in which the wrestler participated on December 7, 2018. The wrestler claimed that he sustained a concussion or other brain injury during the tournament, and he and his parents sought to hold the referee and others involved in the tournament liable for their alleged injuries/damages.
The wrestler and his parents dismissed their first Petition and re-filed on December 11, 2020 – two years and four days after the date he was allegedly injured. On behalf of their referee client, attorneys Jason W. Miller and Brittany N. Salyars of the Patterson Law Firm filed a Motion to Dismiss the re-filed Petition, asserting that the claim was filed beyond the two-year statute of limitations applicable to personal injuries, as set forth in Iowa Code section 614.1(2).
As part of this argument, the Patterson Law Firm had to address the constitutionality of the Supervisory Orders issued by the Iowa Supreme Court on April 2, May 8, and May 22, 2020, which purported to toll any civil statute of limitations for 76 days, and which applied to cases wherein the deadline for commencing an action would otherwise expire between March 17, 2020 and December 31, 2020. The Patterson Law Firm argued that these orders were unconstitutional, as they violated the Separation of Powers doctrine, among other constitutional provisions.
Regarding the Separation of Powers doctrine, the Patterson Law Firm asserted that the authority to enact statutory deadlines is vested in the legislature – and where the legislature has acted, the courts cannot revise the deadlines by way of a judicial supervisory order. In other words, Iowa courts do not have constitutional authority to issue supervisory orders that conflict with statutes enacted by the legislature. In this case, the Patterson Law Firm argued that because the Iowa legislature enacted section 614.1(2), providing that the statute of limitations for personal injuries is two years, the Iowa Supreme Court did not have constitutional authority to toll the statute of limitations, and its attempt to do so was a violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine.
Ultimately, the Iowa District Court in and for Pottawattamie County agreed, finding that the claims against the Patterson Law Firm’s referee client, as well as the other defendants in this action, should be dismissed as having been filed beyond the statute of limitations. The district court specifically found that the Iowa Supreme Courts’ supervisory orders were in violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine, as stated in the Iowa Constitution and, therefore, the Plaintiffs could not rely upon those orders to correct their untimely filing.
The Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s ruling, and the Iowa Supreme Court heard oral argument on the appeal on October 12, 2022. Ultimately, on October 21, 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order, concluding the district court’s decision should be affirmed by operation of law under Iowa Code section 602.4107.
Patterson Law Firm, L.L.P. is located in Des Moines, IA and serves clients throughout Iowa.
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