Iowa State Court System

  • District Court: The district court is also known as the trial court. The district court has exclusive jurisdiction over civil claims.
  • Court of Appeals:The Court of Appeals is Iowa’s intermediate appellate court. It hears cases appealed from the District Court.
  • Iowa Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is Iowa’s court of last resort and has discretionary appellate jurisdiction over Court of Appeals cases. The Supreme Court is also responsible for assigning cases to the Court of Appeals.

*Some of the courts in the Iowa State Court System also have jurisdiction over certain proceedings which are not covered here.

Pleadings

In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves the Complaint on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 20 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.

Discovery

After all parties to the lawsuit have filed pleadings, the case then proceeds to Discovery. Essentially, the discovery process is a fact-finding and investigative endeavor in which each party gathers information and evidence from opposing parties and/or non-party witnesses. While the discovery process includes a variety of other mechanisms used to gather information, it will generally consist of the following:

  • Written Discovery: is generally used at the start of discovery and comes in two basic forms:

    • Interrogatories – Formal questions and/or requests for information served on one party by an opposing party. The party served with interrogatories must provide written responses to each of the interrogatories or respond with an objection to the interrogatory.
    • Requests for Production of Documents – Often served with a set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents are formal requests for certain documentation relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the pleadings.
  • Depositions: In a deposition, either a party to the lawsuit or a non-party witness will provide oral testimony under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who makes a written record of everything said during the deposition.

Lawsuit Filed- Most cases in Iowa being at the District Court level. Iowa’s District Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil, criminal, juvenile, and probate matters in the state. Generally, the District Court will have jurisdiction over civil matters that have expected damages of $10,000 or less.

Settlement Negotiations-At all times throughout the claims process, the parties can agree to settle the dispute by reaching an amicable solution for both parties. 95% of all personal injury claims or lawsuits are resolved by way of settlement prior to trial.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

In Iowa, unless the parties have agreed to engage in alternative dispute resolution or are required to do so by contract or statute, the court may not, by order or local rule, require the parties to engage in a settlement conference or in any other form of alternative dispute resolution.

Trial

If the parties have not reached a settlement through mediation or otherwise, at the conclusion of discovery, the case then proceeds to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can take as little as a single day or as long as several weeks to complete. At the conclusion of a typical civil trial, the jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff and award money damages to the plaintiff or the jury will return a verdict for the defendant finding that the defendant was not at fault.

Motions and Appeals

Every final judgment from a circuit court is appealable by filing a notice of appeal. After a final judgment is entered, the party wishing to appeal must file a notice of appeal with the clerk of the circuit court within 30 days after the entry of the final judgment.

Recovery

A judgment rendered in Iowa is valid for 20 years.

DISCLAIMER:

The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.

By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Iowa. Should you have a question/concern specific to Iowa law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Iowa.