Deceased's criminal history admissible in Iowa wrongful death case

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: wrongful death, criminal history evidence.

Dwuane Parker, et al., v. Timothy Joseph Shatek, et al.. IA wrongful death, criminal history evidence

The jury in this Cerro Gordo County wrongful death case found the defendant not at fault in a vehicle-pedestrian accident, and the plaintiff appealed.

The trial court had allowed testimony as to the victim's criminal history. The court of appeals held that the evidence was relevant and admissible, as it was relevant to the issue of future earnings. It was presented only in connection with economic loss and only briefly. Since the estate had not requested a limmiting instruction, that issue was not preserved.

The court also held that the following jury instruction correctly stated the law:

Although a pedestrian has the lawful right to travel upon the streets at a point of his own choosing, the primary use for which a street is designed, other than a crosswalk, is for vehicular traffic, and use by 5 pedestrians is secondary thereto. Therefore, a pedestrian, meaning Clyde Parker, Jr., in this case, must consider such fact in the exercise of the care of a careful and prudent person when traveling upon the street. In considering whether Clyde Parker, Jr., exercised reasonable care as defined in these instructions, you may consider that the use of the streets is primarily intended for vehicular traffic.

For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

No. 15-1287 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 14, 2016).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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