Negligence is a term commonly used by lawyers and non-lawyers alike. But what does the term mean? In short, this one word generally describes one party’s failure to exercise reasonable care, causing damage to another. Recently, the Iowa Court of Appeals reaffirmed prior Iowa case law and found that an apartment complex’s violation of a city code – failing to place guardrails at forty-two inches high – is evidence (not conclusive proof) of the complex’s negligence. While such a conclusion is not surprising on its surface, it is notable that the Iowa Court of Appeals chose not to follow “most” states and further conclude the violation of a city ordinance amounts to negligence per se; essentially, certain liability.
The Iowa Court of Appeals reasoned that despite laws in other states, the court felt “bound to the principle that to amount to negligence per se, the act in question must violate a state law,” not a more local, municipal law. This recent opinion serves as a helpful reminder for all individuals and businesses in Iowa to follow the law (including local and municipal building requirements) or risk, at least with respect state law violations, negligence per se for violations causing harm to others.