House Study Bill 259 - Introduced HOUSE FILE _____ BY (PROPOSED COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE BILL BY CHAIRPERSON LUNDGREN) A BILL FOR An Act relating to tort liability, including employer liability 1 in civil actions involving commercial motor vehicles and 2 arising from an employee’s negligence, punitive or exemplary 3 damages, and noneconomic damages available against owners or 4 operators of commercial motor vehicles. 5 BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF IOWA: 6 TLSB 2782YC (3) 89 cm/jh
H.F. _____ Section 1. NEW SECTION . 668.12A Liability for employee 1 negligence in actions involving commercial motor vehicles. 2 1. In a civil action involving a commercial motor vehicle 3 as defined in section 321.1, if an employer who is a defendant 4 in the action complies with subsection 2, the employer’s 5 liability for damages caused by the negligence of an employee 6 acting within the course and scope of employment shall be based 7 solely on respondeat superior and not on the employer’s direct 8 negligence in hiring, training, supervising, or trusting the 9 employee, or other similar claim that the employer’s negligence 10 enabled the employee’s harmful conduct. 11 2. On motion of an employer who is the defendant in 12 a civil action involving a commercial motor vehicle, and 13 notwithstanding section 671A.2, a trial court shall dismiss 14 from the civil action any claim of the employer’s direct 15 negligence in hiring, training, supervising, or trusting an 16 employee, or other claim of direct negligence on the part of 17 the employer for the employee’s harmful conduct, or other 18 similar claims, if the employer stipulates that at the time 19 of the event that caused the damages that are the subject of 20 the action that the person whose negligence is alleged to have 21 caused the damages was the employer’s employee and was acting 22 within the course and scope of employment with the employer. 23 3. If an employer makes the stipulations in subsection 2 24 with respect to an employee, and the employee’s negligence is 25 found to have caused or contributed to causing the damages, the 26 employer shall be adjudged vicariously liable for the resulting 27 damages. 28 Sec. 2. NEW SECTION . 668.15A Noneconomic damages —— 29 commercial motor vehicle owners or operators. 30 1. As used in this section: 31 a. “Noneconomic damages” means damages arising from 32 pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental 33 anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of chance, loss of 34 consortium, or any other nonpecuniary damages. 35 -1- LSB 2782YC (3) 89 cm/jh 1/ 4
H.F. _____ b. “Occurrence” means the event, incident, or happening, 1 and the acts or omissions incident thereto, which proximately 2 caused injuries or damages for which recovery is claimed. 3 2. The total amount recoverable in any civil action for 4 noneconomic damages for personal injury or death, whether in 5 tort, contract, or otherwise, against the owner or operator 6 of a commercial motor vehicle shall be limited to one million 7 dollars, regardless of the number of derivative claims, 8 theories of liability, or defendants in the civil action. 9 Sec. 3. Section 668A.1, Code 2021, is amended by adding the 10 following new subsection: 11 NEW SUBSECTION . 2A. A claim for punitive or exemplary 12 damages shall not be included in any initial claim for relief. 13 A claim for punitive or exemplary damages may be allowed by 14 amendment to the pleadings only after the exchange of initial 15 disclosures pursuant to rule 1.500(1) of the Iowa rules of 16 civil procedure and after the plaintiff establishes prima facie 17 proof of a triable issue. After the plaintiff establishes the 18 existence of a triable issue, the court may, in its discretion 19 and subject to subsection 3, allow discovery on the issue of 20 punitive or exemplary damages as the court deems appropriate. 21 EXPLANATION 22 The inclusion of this explanation does not constitute agreement with 23 the explanation’s substance by the members of the general assembly. 24 This bill relates to tort liability, including employer 25 liability for an employee’s tort involving a commercial motor 26 vehicle, noneconomic damages available against an owner or 27 operator of a commercial motor vehicle, and pleading and 28 discovery requirements related to punitive damages. 29 The bill provides that an employer’s liability who is a 30 defendant in a civil action involving a commercial motor 31 vehicle for damages caused by negligence of an employee acting 32 within the scope and course of employment shall be based 33 on respondeat superior. Upon motion of an employer, and 34 notwithstanding Code section 671A.2 (limitations on liability 35 -2- LSB 2782YC (3) 89 cm/jh 2/ 4
H.F. _____ protection for negligent hiring), a trial court shall dismiss 1 from the action any claim of the employer’s direct negligence 2 in hiring, training, supervising, or trusting an employee, or 3 other claim of direct negligence on the part of the employer 4 for the employee’s harmful conduct, or other similar claims, 5 if the employer stipulates that at the time of the event that 6 caused the damages that the person whose negligence is the 7 basis of the action is the employer’s employee and the employee 8 was acting within the course and scope of employment with the 9 employer. If an employer makes the stipulation with respect 10 to an employee, and the employee’s negligence is found to have 11 caused or contributed to causing the damages, the employer 12 shall be adjudged vicariously liable for the resulting damages. 13 Under current law, an employer is liable for an employee’s 14 negligence and may be held responsible for direct negligence 15 relating to hiring, training, supervising, trusting an 16 employee, or other claims of direct negligence on part of the 17 employee’s harmful conduct, subject to certain limitations 18 contained in Code chapter 671 (negligent hiring —— limitations 19 on liability). 20 The bill limits the amount of noneconomic damages available 21 against the owner or operator of a commercial motor vehicle. 22 The bill defines “noneconomic damages” to mean damages arising 23 from pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, 24 mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of chance, 25 loss of consortium, or any other nonpecuniary damages and 26 “occurrence” to mean the event, incident, or happening, and 27 the acts or omissions incident thereto, which proximately 28 caused injuries or damages for which recovery is claimed. The 29 bill provides that the total amount recoverable in any civil 30 action for noneconomic damages for personal injury or death 31 against the owner or operator of a commercial motor vehicle 32 shall be limited to $1 million for any occurrence regardless 33 of the number of derivative claims, theories of liability, or 34 defendants in the civil action. Under current law, noneconomic 35 -3- LSB 2782YC (3) 89 cm/jh 3/ 4
H.F. _____ damages are unlimited except for suits under Code sections 1 123.92 (dramshop liability) and 147.136A (medical malpractice). 2 The bill provides that a claim for punitive or exemplary 3 damages in an action governed by Code section 668A.1 shall 4 not be included in any initial claim for relief. A claim for 5 punitive or exemplary damages may be allowed by amendment to 6 the pleadings only after the exchange of initial disclosures 7 and after the plaintiff establishes prima facie proof of a 8 triable issue. After the plaintiff establishes the existence 9 of a triable issue of punitive or exemplary damages, the court 10 may allow additional discovery on the issue of punitive or 11 exemplary damages. Under current law and under the bill, the 12 mere allegation or assertion of a claim for punitive damages 13 cannot form the basis for discovery of the wealth or ability to 14 respond in damages on behalf of the party from whom punitive 15 damages are claimed until the claimant has established that 16 sufficient admissable evidence exists to support a prima facie 17 case establishing, by a preponderance of clear, convincing, and 18 satisfactory evidence, that the conduct of the defendant from 19 which the claim arose constituted willful and wanton disregard 20 for the rights or safety of another. 21 -4- LSB 2782YC (3) 89 cm/jh 4/ 4