Tanberg v. Ackerman Investment Co.

473 N.W.2d 193 (1991)

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Tanberg v. Ackerman Investment Co.

Iowa Supreme Court
473 N.W.2d 193 (1991)

Facts

Bruce A. Tanberg (plaintiff) was staying at the Best Western Starlite Village Motel. While exiting the bathtub in his motel room, Tanberg fell and injured his back. Tanberg sued Ackerman Investment Co., d/b/a Best Western Starlite Village (Best Western) (defendant), for negligence. At trial, it was established that Tanberg’s treating physician recommended that Tanberg lose weight to decrease his pain and referred Tanberg to a dietician. Tanberg’s other doctors agreed that losing weight would likely help improve his condition. Tanberg did not follow the diet recommended by the dietician as well as he should have. The trial court instructed the jury that Tanberg had a duty to mitigate damages by using ordinary care to follow reasonable medical advice. Tanberg objected to the instruction, arguing that the instruction violated the eggshell-skull principle, in which the defendant was responsible for all of the damage to the plaintiff even though the damage suffered was more severe than expected due to the plaintiff’s preexisting condition. Iowa law provided that the term fault included an unreasonable failure to mitigate damages. The jury found that Tanberg was 70 percent at fault and Best Western was 30 percent at fault. The trial court accordingly entered judgment for Best Western. Tanberg appealed, and the appellate court reversed, holding that Tanberg’s failure to lose weight should not have been considered as fault. Best Western appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McGiverin, C.J.)

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