The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

April 12, 2013

UPDATED: Court of Appeals backs district court ruling in 2009 shooting case

DES MOINES — 4/12/2013 - 11:00 a.m.:  The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a Jackson County District Court decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a couple as the result of a November 2009 shooting in Sabula.

Sheldon Woodhurst and Carla Woodhurst had filed a lawsuit against Manny’s Inc., a Savanna, Ill., restaurant, claiming that David Zabransky — who pleaded guilty in 2010 to the lesser included offense of Class D willful injury with intent to commit bodily injury in connection with the case — consumed alcohol at Manny’s and then later encountered Sheldon at a tavern in Sabula and shot him in the stomach at close range.

The Woodhursts sued several defendants in the case, and as part of their actions raised a dramshop liability claim against Manny’s, claiming the alcohol provided there was the proximate cause of Sheldon’s injuries.

Manny’s moved to dismiss the petition, claiming the court’s lack of personal jurisdiction. After a hearing, the district court granted the motion. The Woodhursts contend that the court made an error of law in concluding it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over Manny’s.

The Woodhursts maintain that the business could fall under the Iowa court’s jurisdiction because Manny’s “purposefully directed” its activities in Iowa by advertising in the state. Advertising may serve as a means of establishing specific jurisdiction, the ruling states, going on to say that to serve as a jurisdictional hook, the advertisements should actively solicit and target out-of-state residents.

The ruling states that ads appearing in an Iowa-based newspaper failed to establish that Manny’s purposefully directed its activities to Iowans. The ads were not for Manny’s in Savanna, where Zabransky was alleged to have consumed alcohol, but for Manny’s Too in Fulton, Ill., which was not alleged to have any connection with Zabransky. Second, while Manny’s conceded it marketed its business to Iowans, that admission falls short of establishing the type of “‘purposeful activity’ that has been found to confer personal jurisdiction,” the ruling says.

The ruling says that advertisements in a Savanna newspaper are equally unavailing since those ads were for Manny’s Pizza in Savanna and there is no evidence that the Savanna publication was circulated to Iowans. The record also does not support the couple’s assertion that Manny’s advertised on an Iowa radio station and ruled that there is nothing to indicate that the Facebook and MySpace pages on the record were directing activity to Iowans.

The couple also argued that because of Savanna’s close proximity to Sabula, it is “reasonable to infer that (Manny’s) transactions result in more than insubstantial patronage by Iowa residents.”

But the court states that Manny’s proximity to Sabula is not a basis “for permitting Iowa courts to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over the establishment.”

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4/11/2013 - 3:00 p.m.: The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a Jackson County District Court decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a couple as the result of a November 2009 shooting in Sabula.

Sheldon Woodhurst and Carla Woodhurst had filed a lawsuit against Manny's Inc., a Savanna, Ill., restaurant, claiming that David Zabransky — who pleaded guilty in 2010 to the lesser included offense of Class D willful injury with intent to commit bodily injury in connection with the case — consumed alcohol at Manny's and then later encountered Sheldon at a tavern in Sabula and shot him in the stomach at close range.

The Woodhursts sued several defendants in the case, and as part of their actions raised a dramshop liability claim against Manny's, claiming the alcohol provided there was the proximate cause of Sheldon's injuries.

Manny's moved to dismiss the petition, claiming the court's lack of personal jurisdiction. After a hearing, the district court granted the motion. The Woodhursts contend that the court made an error of law in concluding it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over Manny's.

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