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Richardson v. The Commodore, Inc.

Iowa Supreme Court
599 N.W.2d 693 (1999)


Facts

Russell Richardson (plaintiff) was injured when a piece of plaster fell from the ceiling and struck him on the head while he was shooting pool at The Commodore Tap (the Tap) (defendant), a bar owned and operated by Ralph and Betty Hauerwas (defendants). The Tap was located on the first floor of a two-story building built in 1913. At the time a contractor made repairs to portions of the original plaster ceiling in 1982, no other problems with the ceiling were visible. Several years later, a drop ceiling was installed on the first floor of the building to improve the efficiency of heating and cooling the Tap. A drop ceiling is a secondary ceiling hung below the main structural ceiling. Again, at the time the drop ceiling was installed, no problems with the original plaster ceiling were detected. Richardson filed suit against the Tap and the Hauerwases alleging that he was a business invitee and that defendants had failed to properly maintain the premises in a reasonable safe condition. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and held there was no evidence that the defendants knew or should have known of the dangerous condition of the plaster ceiling. Richardson appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court. The Iowa Supreme Court granted certiorari to review. 

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Holding and Reasoning (Ternus, J.)

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