House File 201 - IntroducedA Bill ForAn Act 1relating to tort liability, including employer
2liability and noneconomic damages in civil actions involving
3commercial motor vehicles, and punitive or exemplary damages
4in civil actions generally.
5BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF IOWA:
1   Section 1.  NEW SECTION.  668.12A  Liability for employee
2negligence in actions involving commercial motor vehicles.
   31.  Subject to subsection 4, in a civil action involving the
4operation of a commercial motor vehicle, if an employer who
5is a defendant in the action complies with subsection 2, the
6employer’s liability for damages caused by the negligence of an
7employee operating a commercial motor vehicle within the course
8and scope of employment shall be based solely on respondeat
9superior and not on the employer’s direct negligence in hiring,
10training, supervising, or trusting the employee.
   112.  On motion of an employer who is a defendant in a civil
12action involving the operation of a commercial motor vehicle,
13a trial court shall dismiss from the civil action any claim
14of the employer’s direct negligence in hiring, training,
15supervising, or trusting the employee, or other claim of direct
16negligence on the part of the employer for the employee’s
17harmful conduct, or other similar claims, if the employer
18stipulates that at the time of the event that caused the
19damages that are the subject of the civil action that the
20person whose negligence is alleged to have caused the damages
21was the employer’s employee and was acting within the course
22and scope of employment with the employer.
   233.  If an employer makes the stipulations in subsection 2
24with respect to an employee, and the employee’s negligence is
25found to have caused or contributed to causing the damages,
26the employer shall be adjudged liable solely on the basis of
27respondeat superior for all the resulting damages.
   284.  This section does not apply if the civil action involving
29a commercial motor vehicle arises from an incident for which an
30employee is convicted under section 321J.2 or found to be in
31violation of 49 C.F.R. §392.4 or 49 C.F.R. §392.5.
   325.  As used in this section:
   33a.  “Commercial motor vehicle” means as defined in section
34321.1.
   35b.  “Convicted” means convicted of an indictable offense and
-1-1includes a guilty plea or other finding of guilt by a court of
2competent jurisdiction.
   3c.  “Operation” or “operating” means actual physical control
4of a commercial motor vehicle upon a highway as defined in
5section 321.1.
6   Sec. 2.  NEW SECTION.  668.15A  Noneconomic damages —
7commercial motor vehicle owners or operators.
   81.  As used in this section:
   9a.  “Commercial motor vehicle” means as defined in section
10321.1.
   11b.  “Convicted” means convicted of an indictable offense and
12includes a guilty plea or other finding of guilt by a court of
13competent jurisdiction.
   14c.  “Inflation” means the annual percentage change in the
15United States department of labor, bureau of labor statistics,
16consumer price index for all urban consumers for the midwest
17region, all items, or its successor index.
   18d.  “Noneconomic damages” means damages arising from
19pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental
20anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of chance, loss of
21consortium, or any other nonpecuniary damages.
   22e.  “Operation” means actual physical control of a commercial
23motor vehicle upon a highway as defined in section 321.1.
   242.  The total amount recoverable by each plaintiff in any
25civil action involving the operation of a commercial motor
26vehicle for noneconomic damages for personal injury or death,
27whether in tort, contract, or otherwise, against the owner or
28operator of a commercial motor vehicle shall be limited to one
29million dollars, regardless of the number of claims, theories
30of liability, or defendants in the civil action.
   313.  a.  The limitation on damages set forth in subsection 2
32shall be adjusted for inflation by the secretary of state on
33January 1, 2026, and on January 1 of each even-numbered year
34thereafter.
   35b.  The secretary of state shall certify and publish the
-2-1adjusted limitation on damages within fourteen days after the
2appropriate information is available.
   34.  This section does not apply if the civil action involving
4a commercial motor vehicle arises from an incident for which an
5employee is convicted under section 321J.2 or found to be in
6violation of 49 C.F.R. §392.4 or 49 C.F.R. §392.5.
7   Sec. 3.  Section 668A.1, Code 2023, is amended by adding the
8following new subsection:
9   NEW SUBSECTION.  2A.  A claim for punitive or exemplary
10damages shall not be included in any initial claim for relief.
11A claim for punitive or exemplary damages may be allowed by
12amendment to the pleadings only after the exchange of initial
13disclosures pursuant to the Iowa rules of civil procedure and
14after the plaintiff establishes prima facie proof of a triable
15issue.
16EXPLANATION
17The inclusion of this explanation does not constitute agreement with
18the explanation’s substance by the members of the general assembly.
   19This bill relates to tort liability.
   20Under current law, an employer is liable for an employee’s
21negligence and may be held responsible for direct negligence
22relating to hiring, training, supervising, or trusting an
23employee, or other claims of direct negligence on part of the
24employee’s harmful conduct, subject to certain limitations
25contained in Code chapter 671A (negligent hiring — limitations
26on liability) relating to convictions for public offenses, with
27certain exceptions.
   28The bill provides that the liability of an employer who is
29a defendant in a civil action involving a commercial motor
30vehicle for damages caused by negligence of an employee acting
31within the scope and course of employment shall be based on
32respondeat superior if the employer makes certain stipulations.
33On motion of an employer, a trial court shall dismiss from
34the action any claim of the employer’s direct negligence in
35hiring, training, supervising, or trusting an employee, or
-3-1other claim of direct negligence on the part of the employer
2for the employee’s harmful conduct, or other similar claims,
3if the employer stipulates that at the time of the event that
4caused the damages that the person whose negligence is the
5basis of the action is the employer’s employee and the employee
6was acting within the course and scope of employment with the
7employer. These provisions do not apply in circumstances
8involving an operating-while-intoxicated offense or a violation
9under federal regulations for operating under the influence of
10drugs, alcohol, or other substances.
   11The bill limits the amount of noneconomic damages available
12against the owner or operator of a commercial motor vehicle for
13personal injury or death to $1 million regardless of the number
14of derivative claims, theories of liability, or defendants in
15the civil action. The secretary of state shall adjust the
16noneconomic damages award limitation on a biannual basis to
17account for inflation beginning on January 1, 2026, and every
18even-numbered year thereafter. Under current law, noneconomic
19damages are unlimited except for suits under Code sections
20123.92 (dramshop liability) and 147.136A (awards against health
21care providers).
   22The bill provides that a claim for punitive or exemplary
23damages in an action governed by Code section 668A.1 shall
24not be included in any initial claim for relief. A claim for
25punitive or exemplary damages may be allowed by amendment to
26the pleadings only after the exchange of initial disclosures
27and after the plaintiff establishes prima facie proof of a
28triable issue. Under current law and under the bill, the
29mere allegation or assertion of a claim for punitive damages
30cannot form the basis for discovery of the wealth or ability to
31respond in damages on behalf of the party from whom punitive
32damages are claimed until the claimant has established that
33sufficient admissible evidence exists to support a prima facie
34case establishing, by a preponderance of clear, convincing, and
35satisfactory evidence, that the conduct of the defendant from
-4-1which the claim arose constituted willful and wanton disregard
2for the rights or safety of another.
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