Weems v. Hy-Vee Food Stores

526 N.W.2d 571 (Iowa Ct. App. 1994)



Medical treatment sought by an injured person is considered a normal consequence of the tortfeasor's conduct. If the negligent actor is liable for another's bodily injury, he is also subject to liability for any additional bodily harm resulting from normal efforts of third persons in rendering aid which the other's injury reasonably requires, irrespective of whether such acts are done in a proper or negligent manner. A defendant will be liable for the adverse results of medical treatment unless the treatment is extraordinary or the harm is outside the risks incident to the medical treatment. 


A customer slipped and fell on a wet floor at the owner's store. Approximately 18 months later, the customer visited an orthopedic surgeon in response to his lingering lower-back pain. The surgeon administered an epidural block, which involved a spinal steroid injection. As a result, however, the customer developed an infection, which led to spinal meningitis. A tort action was filed against the owner for damages associated to the customer's fall, including the spinal meningitis. At trial, the owner requested a jury instruction on whether the harmful side effects of the medical treatment constituted an intervening superseding cause of the subsequent damages. The trial court refused to give the instruction, and the jury found in favor of customer. The trial court also denied the owner's motion for a new trial. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals of Iowa.


Did the medical treatment constitute an intervening superseding cause?




The court held that it was not possible to conclude that the epidural block treatment was a superceding cause. The epidural block was an accepted and common treatment for chronic back pain, and spinal meningitis was a known risk of the procedure. Thus, the medical treatment was not an extraordinary or unforeseeable act.

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