I owa civil jury instructions

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Updated through June 2016

Suggestions For Instructing Juries
Model Jury Instructions
100 General Instructions
200 Damages
300 Verdicts
400 Comparative Fault
500 Independent Contractor
600 Motor Vehicles - Rules Of The Road
700 Negligence - Proximate Cause - Co-Employee-Employer Liability - Vicarious

Liability - Sidewalk Liability-Distress and Injury
800 Misrepresentation
900 Premises Liability
1000 Products Liability
1100 Warranty
1200 Business Relations - Interference
1300 Dram Shop Liability
1400 Insurer - Excess Liability
1500 Malpractice - Legal
1600 Malpractice - Medical
1700 Railroad Crossings
1800 Abuse Of Process
1900 Assault and Battery
2000 Emotional Distress - Intentional Infliction
2100 Libel And Slander
2200 Malicious Prosecution
2300 Bailments
2400 Contracts
2500 Eminent Domain
2600 Estates - Claim For Services
2700 Will Contest
2800 False Arrest
2900 Governmental Liability
3000 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 Actions
3100 Employment Rights
3200 Fiduciary Liability
3300 Corporate Shareholder, Officer And Director Liability
3400 Commercial Torts
3500 Conspiracy
3600 Controlling Conduct Of Third Parties
3700 Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predator – Essentials For Commitment
Cross Reference Table - Iowa Civil Jury Instructions To Iowa Uniform Civil Jury Instructions
Alphabetical Index




The court, meeting en banc in administrative session at Des Moines on May 6, 1987, upon a motion duly made and seconded, unanimously adopted the following resolution:
For many years the public has benefited from the efforts of the Special Committee on Uniform Court Instructions of The Iowa State Bar Association.
The unique contributions of that committee in the promulgation of Uniform Jury Instructions are well documented in the opinions of this court.
The committee has furnished us with a copy of the Plain English Redraft of the Iowa Civil Jury Instructions which was approved by the Board of Governors of The Iowa State Bar Association on December 2, 1986.
Under Iowa law any jury instructions might be challenged in the usual manner on appeal to this court. That right of review on the part of future litigants precludes us from considering the Plain English Redraft Instructions for official approval or disapproval. We nevertheless note this newest contribution of the committee with a deep sense of appreciation and satisfaction.

It is readily apparent that juries will better understand legal principles explained by the instructions under the Plain English Redraft. The quality of justice will be improved. The bench, the bar and, especially, the public, will benefit from the committee's work in producing the Plain English Redraft.
The court commends the Uniform Court Instruction Committee for this remarkable achievement and commends these instructions for consideration by the trial bench.

Done at Des Moines, Iowa, this 6th day of May, 1987.

W.W. Reynoldson, Chief Justice James Carter, Justice

David Harris, Justice Charles Wolle, Justice

Arthur McGiverin, Justice Louis Lavorato, Justice

Jerry Larson, Justice Linda Neuman, Justice

Louis Schultz, Justice
The purpose of jury instructions is to give the law to the jury in language they can understand. The committee believes the best way to do this is to write jury instructions in plain English. With this in mind, the committee asked the Board of Governors of The Iowa State Bar Association to approve redrafting the Iowa Civil and Criminal Uniform Jury Instructions in plain English. The Board approved this request. It also approved our request to employ a communications specialist to help us translate "legalese" into "plain English" and we did this.
While the Iowa Supreme Court cannot give prior approval to the instructions, the Court has unanimously approved, in principle, the plain English redraft of the Iowa Civil and Criminal Jury Instructions. The Court also adopted a resolution commending the Civil Instructions for consideration by the Trial Bench. A copy of the resolution follows this Introduction.
Before drafting was done the committee:

1. Reviewed some of the literature relating to plain English jury instructions.

2. Examined other State and Federal Instructions.

3. Adopted general guidelines for drafting jury instructions.

4. Adopted specific guidelines for drafting plain English jury instructions.
In an address delivered at the Tenth Circuit Judicial Conference on July 9, 1965, Judge Edward J. Devitt, Chief Judge, United States District Court, District of Minnesota, gave ten practical suggestions about Federal jury instructions, including the following:

"Instructions should be phrased in clear, concise language applicable to the case. Sometimes counsel will quote verbatim from an appellate court decision dwelling on a point involved in the trial and urge it as a proposed instruction. Appellate court opinions are written for a purpose different from that for which jury instructions are designed. The point of law may be controlling, but not the language. It is the legal principle, not the words expressing it, which is pertinent and which will be helpful to the jury. Legal points from decided cases should be couched in language appropriate to the facts and to the parties in the lawsuit.
"The use of legal terminology in instructions should be avoided as much as possible. In preparing instructions we should remember that the task is to shed light and not to add to the darkness. The use of some legal terms such as ‘proximate cause’ and ‘reasonable doubt’ cannot be avoided. But to the extent possible, we should use that which Chief Judge Alfred Murrah calls ‘the common speech of man’."
We adopted the general approach suggested by Judge Devitt in drafting these instructions.
The general guidelines for drafting jury instructions adopted by the committee are that each jury instruction shall be:

1. An accurate statement of the law.

2. As brief and concise as practicable.

3. Understandable to the average juror.

4. Neutral, unslanted and free of argument.
The specific guidelines for drafting plain English jury instructions adopted by the Committee are:

1. Use plain English, simple, short and concrete words.

2. Make it look and sound like talk.

3. Use short sentences.

4. Use short paragraphs.

5. Omit unnecessary words.

6. Use active voice rather than passive.

7. Avoid negative forms, and especially double negatives.

8. Use personal pronouns, "I" for the Judge and "you" for the jury.

9. Whenever possible, leave out the words: "as to", "determine", "facilitate", "herein",

"hereof", "however", "if any", "therefrom", "theretofore", "thereof", "otherwise",

"require", "that", "the", "whether", and "which."

10. Replace "locate" with "find"; "prior to" with "before"; "sufficient" with "enough"; "in

the event that" with "if."

11. Put prepositions at the end whenever it sounds right to do so.

12. Use sex neutral language: eliminate the pronoun; repeat the noun; use a synonym for

the noun; change the pronoun to "the", "a", "this" and the like; use "one"; use "it";

use the imperative; reword; and use the passive (the last resort).

13. Where appropriate for clarity and ease of understanding, use lay language in place of

exact case or statutory language so long as an accurate statement of the law is

INSTRUCTIONS MUST ALWAYS BE TAILORED TO FIT THE FACTS OF THE CASE. These instructions are not intended to provide jury instructions which are applicable without change in all cases. Instead, they will provide judges and lawyers with models of clear, concise, accurate and impartial instructions which are understandable to the average juror. They can be adapted for use in particular cases and used as a guide for tailoring instructions.
The instructions will be referred to as Iowa Civil Jury Instructions. There is a cross reference table of the Iowa Civil Jury Instructions to the Iowa Uniform Civil Jury Instructions. Included in it is a table showing additional Iowa Uniform Civil Jury Instructions not included in the Iowa Civil Jury Instructions. The chapter designations will be 100, 200, etc. to avoid any problem with Shepards Citator. However, we recommend you keep your old set for reference.
We have included some suggestions for instructing juries and a model set of jury instructions. We hope these instructions and material will assist trial judges and lawyers in giving the law to the jury in language they can understand.
The Iowa Civil Jury Instructions have been prepared to help attorneys and judges communicate more effectively with juries. A number of suggestions have been brought to our attention which the Bench and Bar may wish to consider when trying a lawsuit. They include:

  1. Organizing instructions in a logical order which corresponds to the order in which the jury should approach the case

2. Providing the jury with an explanatory instruction and transitions to help it understand the logical framework of the instructions.
3. Reading helpful "standard" instructions to the jury before (a) jury selection, or (b) opening statements. Examples include instructions on preponderance of the evidence, proximate cause, negligence, credibility, definition of evidence, and burden of proof. Explain that more detailed instructions will be given at the end of the trial after all the evidence has been presented.
4. Reading the instructions to the jury before final arguments. This allows counsel to comment on the instructions without having to qualify their remarks by "I believe the Court will instruct…" It may also make the closing arguments more understandable.
5. Giving each juror an individual set of instructions to read while the judge is reading the instructions.
6. Using an overhead projector so the jury can read the instructions while the judge reads them.
7. Providing more than one set of instructions for the jury when they deliberate.
8. Telling the jurors the procedure to use if they have any questions during their deliberations. For example:
"Occasionally, after a jury retires to the jury room, the members have questions. I have prepared the instructions after carefully considering this case with the parties and lawyers. I have tried to use language which is generally understandable. Usually questions about instructions can be answered by carefully re-reading them. If however, any of you feel it necessary to ask a question, you must do so in writing and deliver the question to the court attendant. I cannot communicate with you without first discussing your question and potential answer with the parties and lawyers. This process naturally takes time and deliberation before I can reply. The foreperson shall read my response to the jury. Keep the written question and response and return it to the Court with the verdict."
“The court attendant who has been working with me on this case is in the same position as I am. [He] [She] has taken an oath not to communicate with you except to ask if you have agreed upon a verdict. Please do not put [him] [her] on the spot by asking [him] [her] any questions. You should direct your questions to the Court and not to the court attendant."
9. The Committee recommends the following admonition be given in all cases before the trial starts:
Personal prejudices have no place in court. You must set aside and disregard any personal feelings of bias or prejudice which you may have based on sex, race, religion, national origin, age or disability. You must decide this case only on the basis of the evidence which is admitted and the law as I explain it to you.
10. The Court may wish to permit the jury an opportunity to take notes of the trial proceedings. In that event, Iowa Criminal Jury Instruction 100.17 should be given with the Court's other instructions.
100.1 Statement Of The Case
100.2 Duties Of Judge And Jury, Instructions As Whole
100.3 Burden Of Proof, Preponderance Of Evidence
100.4 Evidence
100.5 Deposition Testimony
100.6 Interrogatories
100.7 Requests For Admissions
100.8 Stipulated Testimony
100.9 Credibility Of Witnesses
100.10 Viewing
100.11 Hypothetical Question, Expert Testimony
100.12 Opinion Evidence, Expert Witness
100.13 Contradictory Statements, Non-Party, Witness Not Under Oath
100.14 Contradictory Statements, Non-Party, Witness Under Oath
100.15 Statements By A Party Opponent
100.16 Impeachment, Character And Reputation
100.17 Impeachment, Public Offense
100.18 General Instruction To Jury
100.19 Clear Convincing And Satisfactory Evidence
100.20 Corporate Party
100.21 Cautionary Instruction - Juror's Notes
100.22 Spoliation of Evidence

100.23 Use of Electronic Devices

100.1 Statement Of The Case. Members of the Jury: In this case plaintiff(s) claim [set forth the claims of defendant(s)].
The defendant(s) [set forth the denials of defendant(s) and any defenses].
Do not consider this summary as proof of any claim. Decide the facts from the evidence and apply the law which I will now give you.

100.2 Duties Of Judge And Jury, Instructions As Whole. My duty is to tell you what the law is. Your duty is to accept and apply this law.
You must consider all of the instructions together because no one instruction includes all of the applicable law.
The order in which I give these instructions is not important.
Your duty is to decide all fact questions.
As you consider the evidence, do not be influenced by any personal sympathy, bias, prejudices or emotions. Because you are making very important decisions in this case, you are to evaluate the evidence carefully and avoid decisions based on generalizations, gut feelings, prejudices, sympathies, stereotypes, or biases. The law demands that you return a just verdict, based solely on the evidence, your reason and common sense, and these instructions. As jurors, your sole duty is to find the truth and do justice.
Roushar v. Dixon, 231 Iowa 993, 2 N.W.2d 660 (1942)

Rev. 6/16
100.3 Burden Of Proof, Preponderance Of Evidence. Whenever a party must prove something they must do so by the preponderance of the evidence.
Preponderance of the evidence is evidence that is more convincing than opposing evidence. Preponderance of the evidence does not depend upon the number of witnesses testifying on one side or the other.
Mabrier v. A.M. Servicing Corporation of Raytown, 161 N.W.2d 180 (1968)

100.4 Evidence. You shall base your verdict only upon the evidence and these instructions.
Evidence is:
1. Testimony in person or by deposition.
2. Exhibits received by the court.
3. Stipulations which are agreements between the attorneys.
4. Any other matter admitted (e.g. answers to interrogatories, matters which judicial notice was taken, and etc.).
Evidence may be direct or circumstantial. The weight to be given any evidence is for you to decide.
Sometimes, during a trial, references are made to pre-trial statements and reports, witnesses' depositions, or other miscellaneous items. Only those things formally offered and received by the court are available to you during your deliberations. Documents or items read from or referred to which were not offered and received into evidence, are not available to you.

The following are not evidence:
1. Statements, arguments, questions and comments by the lawyers.
2. Objections and rulings on objections.
3. Any testimony I told you to disregard.

4. Anything you saw or heard about this case outside the courtroom.

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