Wabasha County District Court File No. C802426
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge,
and Hudson, Judge.
In a choice-of-law analysis, an interest in deferring to the policy decisions of a sister-state that are designed to promote the economic well being of that state may neutralize or outweigh Minnesota's great interest in compensating tort victims.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stoneburner, Judge
Appellant David Schumacher challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment to respondent Harold Schumacher, claiming that the district court erred in ruling that the Iowa Domesticated Animal Activities Immunity Statute applies to this negligence action to relieve respondent from liability for injuries appellant sustained when respondent's horse kicked him in the face. Appellant argues that Minnesota law applies and, alternatively, that even if the Iowa law applies, there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether respondent's conduct was reckless, in which case the Iowa immunity statute would no longer apply. Because we conclude that the Iowa immunity statute applies and there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding whether respondent acted recklessly, we affirm.
Appellant David Schumacher sued his father, respondent Harold Schumacher, for damages due to injuries he sustained when he was kicked in the face by respondent's horse at a horse show in Iowa, while appellant was helping respondent with the horses.
Respondent owns, breeds, raises, and shows Percheron draft horses on his farm near Plainview, in Wabasha County, Minnesota. Percherons are generally known as strong, high-strung animals possessing great speed and agility. An adult Percheron weighs approximately 2,000 pounds and stands 18 hands high.
Appellant was 20 years old at the time of the accident. He grew up helping respondent with the horses. He currently lives in a house owned by respondent and performs work for respondent, including help with showing the Percherons, in lieu of cash rent.
The parties took six geldings and a one-year old stallion to a horse show in Iowa. When they arrived, respondent learned that he had been assigned double-tie stalls, designed to hold two horses. This concerned respondent because his horses are not used to being stalled with another horse. Respondent had never before stabled a stallion with a gelding because stallions generally try to dominate geldings. Nonetheless, while respondent prepared a separate stall for the stallion, he placed the stallion and one of the geldings in the same stall, separated by a 4x8 piece of plywood. When respondent moved the stallion about ten minutes later, the gelding was upset and agitated because the stallion had bitten and otherwise aggravated him.
Shortly after respondent had moved the stallion, appellant, who knew that the stallion had just been removed from the stall and that the gelding was upset, approached the gelding and was kicked in the face. The manner in which appellant approached the gelding is disputed by witnesses.*fn1 It is undisputed, however, that appellant suffered severe injuries to the head and has undergone eleven surgeries to reconstruct his face. The costs of appellant's care, to date, exceed $200,000.
Following discovery, respondent moved for summary judgment arguing that Iowa law controls this case and provides him with immunity for negligence, the only cause of action alleged in appellant's complaint. Appellant opposed the motion, arguing that Minnesota law applies and that even if Iowa law applies, respondent's act of placing the gelding and stallion together constitutes recklessness, for which the Iowa statute does not provide immunity. The district court granted summary judgment to respondent, concluding that the Iowa law applies under a choice-of-law analysis, there is no evidence that respondent engaged in reckless conduct, and therefore Iowa's statutory immunity for domesticated animal activities precludes appellant's negligence suit ...