29 Drake L. Rev. 207 (1979-1980)
Torts

handle is hein.journals/drklr29 and id is 217 raw text is: CASE NOTES
TORTS-A MUNICIPALITY Is LIABLE FOR TORTIOUS COMMISSIONS AND OMIS-
SIONS WHEN AUTHORITY AND CONTROL OVER THE FIRE SAFETY OF APART-
MENTS HAVE BEEN DELEGATED TO IT BY STATUTE AND BREACH OF THAT DUTY
INVOLVES A FORESEEABLE RISK OF INJURY TO AN IDENTIFIABLE CLASS TO
WHICH THE PLAINTIFF BELONGS.- Wilson v. Nepstad (Iowa 1979).
In the early morning hours of September 27, 1975, fire destroyed an
apartment house located at 1128 6th Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa. Five cases
concerning the deaths and injuries which resulted from the fire were filed in
the District Court for Polk County and were later consolidated for the sub-
mission of motions. The owners of the apartment house, Gregory L. and
Dona J. Nepstad, and the City of Des Moines were listed as defendants in
each action. The plaintiffs alleged that the city failed to perform its duty of
enforcing state statutes and city ordinances' relating to building codes, oc-
cupancy permits and fire regulations. The plaintiffs further alleged that
agents of the city negligently inspected the apartment building on February
7, 1975 and issued an inspection certificate' impliedly warranting the safety
of the premises. The deaths and injuries sustained by the fire victims were
claimed to have been the result of either the city's negligent conduct or its
breach of warranty.
The city filed motions to dismiss in four of the cases and a motion for
judgment on the pleadings in the fifth case.8 In support of these motions the
city argued that the public duty doctrine was established as the law of
1. The state statutes violated were unspecified in the petition. The city ordinances violated
were also originally unspecified. However, the plaintiffs amended their petition and claimed
that city ordinances number 7609, 7516 and 7912 were violated. Record, app. at 35-40. Alleged
defects included:
inadequate means of egress; obstructions and encumbrances on fire escapes, stairs
and passageways; dangerous materials stored on, under, or at the bottom of exit stair-
ways, exit hallways and other means of egress. [Also] [t]here was inadequate lighting
of stairways, hallways and other means of egress; absence of suitable fire detecting
devices and extinguishing appliances; and no immediate access from each dwelling
unit located on the second floor and above to two or more means of egress.
Wilson v. Nepstad, 282 N.W.2d 664, 672 (Iowa 1979).
2. Housing Code Enforcement Inspection 1021 (Feb. 17, 1975). Record, app. at 23.
3. The fire victims were alleged to be residents or guests in the building. 282 N.W.2d at
666.
4. The plaintiffs did not pursue the breach of warranty theory on appeal. Id. at 666.
5. Id.

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