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Gamerdinger v. Schaefer

603 N.W.2d 590 (1999)

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Gamerdinger v. Schaefer

Iowa Supreme Court

603 N.W.2d 590 (1999)

Facts

Sharri Gamerdinger (plaintiff) was driving a food cart in a Deere & Company (Deere) (defendant) warehouse. Deere employee Patrick Schaefer (defendant) backed a forklift out of a trailer without using a horn or stopping to look around first—and ran into Gamerdinger’s cart, injuring her. Gamerdinger and her husband (plaintiff) sued Schaefer and Deere. At trial, Gamerdinger attempted to introduce testimony from two retired Deere employees who had worked with Schaefer. Both employees were ready to testify that Schaefer had a habit of not following forklift-safety procedures, including a specific habit of failing to watch out for pedestrians, vehicles, or other objects while Schaefer was unloading a trailer. One employee had watched Schaefer drive this same dangerous way almost daily. Both employees had also complained about Schaefer’s bad driving habits to Schaefer’s supervisors as frequently as once or twice per month for years. However, the trial court would not allow the testimony about Schaefer’s driving habits unless Schaefer or Deere opened the door by claiming that Schaefer was a safe driver. The jury never heard the driving-habit testimony, and it returned a verdict that Gamerdinger was 50 percent responsible, Deere was 30 percent responsible, and Schaefer was 20 percent responsible for Gamerdinger’s injuries. Due to inconsistencies in the jury verdict on other issues, the trial court granted Gamerdinger’s request for a new trial. All the parties appealed. Gamerdinger’s appeal argued that the trial court should have admitted the testimony about Schaefer’s habit of negligently operating the forklift.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Snell, J.)

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