Iowa Supreme Court Upholds $1.25M Loss of Consortium Verdict

Tuesday, July 30, 2002
In Horak v. Argosy Gaming Co., 2002 WL 1559095 (Iowa July 17, 2002), Leticia Morales, after an evening of drinking before boarding and while aboard the BELLE of SIOUX CITY, died in a one-car accident, during which her blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. Her three children sued the riverboat casino's owner, Argosy Gaming Company, under the state's dramshop statute, under which comparative fault/apportionment of negligence rules do not apply. In other words, unlike under traditional maritime law comparative fault rules, Morales' own negligence, if any, would not reduce her surviving children's recovery. The Court rejected Argosy's argument that the general maritime law preempted the state dramshop act, holding that, while the case did involve a maritime tort, the Iowa dramshop act did not conflict with or frustrate any fundamental tenet of substantive maritime law: "In truth it would be absurd to hold that Argosy, carrying dram shop insurance and having secured its gaming license as well as its authorization to sell alcoholic beverages on the condition that it comply with Iowa's liquor laws, could circumvent the reach of those laws by claiming federal preemption." Source: Marine Legal Update

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