Bettendorf Hotel Gets New Trial After Guest Slip and Fall Case

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: premises liability.

Brenda J. Alcala v. Marriott International Inc., Courtyard Management Corporation, d/b/a Quad Cities Courtyard by Marriott. IA premises liability

Brenda J. Alcala v. Marriott International Inc., Courtyard Management Corporation, d/b/a Quad Cities Courtyard by Marriott

This appeal from Scott County, Iowa, arose from a slip-and-fall at the Marriott hotel in Bettendorf. In 2010, Brenda J. Alcala was staying at the hotel when she slipped and fell on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, sustaining injuries to her ankle. She sued, claiming negligence in failing to maintain the premises and failing to warn. The jury agreed, and returned a verdict of over $1.2 million, after which the defendant appealed.

The Iowa Court of Appeals held that the district court abused its discretion by failing to submit the continuing storm doctrine instruction to the jury. Quoting an earlier decision, the court summarized the doctrine as follows:

The authorities are in substantial accord in support of the rule that a business establishment, landlord, carrier, or other inviter, in the absence of unusual circumstances, is permitted to await the end of the storm and a reasonable time thereafter to remove ice and snow from an outdoor entrance walk, platform, or steps. The general controlling principle is that changing conditions due to the pending storm render it inexpedient and impracticable to take earlier effective action, and that ordinary care does not require it.

Given the weather in this case, the court held that the doctrine was applicable, and the jury should have been instructed on it.

It also held that the jury should not have been instructed on private industry safety standards and by on negligent training of employees, as had been done by the lower court. For these reasons, the Court of Appeals remanded for a new trial.

No. 14-1058 (Iowa Ct. App. Sep. 23, 2015).

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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