Justia Iowa Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court modifying a judgment for civil conspiracy following a jury trial, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion to amend the judgment. Jeffrey Anderson commenced an action against Dean and Carol Anderson and Anderson Tooling, Inc. (ATI) alleging, among other claims, tortious discharge. Dean, Carol, and ATI filed several counterclaims. ATI sued Lori and brought a claim against Lori and Fabrication & Construction Services Inc. (FabCon) for, among other claims, conspiracy. Damages against Jeff totaled $772,297.72. The district court subsequently granted ATI's motion to modify the judgment to make Lori and FabCon jointly and severally liable for the $772,297.72 judgment. As relevant to this appeal, the court of appeals reversed the district court's order imposing joint and several liability on Lori and FabCon, determining that a conspiracy did not exist for Lori and FabCon to join. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals's judgment in part, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion to amend the judgment. View "Anderson v. Anderson Tooling, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing this action filed by a public employee union seeking to enforce a collective bargaining agreement entered into with the Iowa Board of Regents, holding that the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) acted within its statutory authority in promulgating Iowa Admin. Code R. 621-6.5(3), which has the force of law, and that the district court correctly applied rule 621-6.5(3) to hold the parties had no enforceable collective bargaining agreement (CBA) without the Board's vote to ratify it. The Board moved for summary judgment on the union's action to enforce the CBA, relying on rule 621-6.5, which requires the Board to meet to vote to accept a tentative voluntary agreement ratified by the union before the contract becomes effective. The union argued that the agency rule was invalid because it imposed a ratification requirement not included in Iowa Code 20.17(4). The district court upheld the validity of the agency rule and dismissed the union's enforcement action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) rule 621-6.5(3) is valid; and (2) therefore, no enforceable agreement was reached without the requisite vote by the Board to approve the CBA. View "Service Employees International Union, Local 199 v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s two-count petition, holding that the district court erred in holding that a seller of auction services of certain machinery is entitled to summary judgment on a claim brought by a buyer of those services under the Door-to-Door Sales Act (DDSA), Iowa Code chapter 555A. Plaintiff brought this action claiming a violation of the DDSA and seeking a declaratory judgment challenging the underlying sales contract because of an invalid execution by a third party and because of fraud in the inducement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding, among other things, that the DDSA does not apply to a contract for auction services, such as the contract in this case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant was not entitled to summary judgment on the DDSA claim where Defendant presented no evidence that Plaintiff’s purpose in purchasing the auction services was not “primarily for personal, family, or household purposes”; and (2) because the declaratory judgment count had allegations beyond the DDSA the district court erred in dismissing this count of the petition. View "Morris v. Steffes Group, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and promissory estoppel claims, holding that the district court erred in granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the promissory estoppel claim. Plaintiff, a farmer, sued Defendants, his neighbor’s heirs, claiming that he and the decedent entered into an option contract to purchase farmland that Plaintiff leased from he decedent and upon which Plaintiff had made substantial improvements. After the farm was sold, Plaintiff brought this action claiming that Defendants breached an option contract to sell him the property. Alternatively, Plaintiff alleged various equitable theories of promissory estoppel, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment. A jury found in favor of Plaintiff on his contract claim, but the district court granted Defendants’ motion for directed verdict and refused to order a new trial on Plaintiff’s alternative equitable theories. The court of appeals remanded the case for further proceedings on the equitable claims. On remand, the district court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the remaining equitable claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Plaintiff’s promissory estoppel claim survived summary judgment. View "Kunde v. Estate of Arthur D. Bowman" on Justia Law

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Retaliatory discharge claims are not categorically reserved for at-will employees. A state administrative law judge (ALJ) brought suit alleging wrongful termination in violation of public policy after she was terminated for giving unfavorable testimony about the director of her division to the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee. The ALJ’s employment was covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The State filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the common law claim of wrongful discharge is reserved for at-will employees. The district court agreed and dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the ALJ’s status as a CBA-covered employee did not preclude her wrongful-discharge claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the common law tort of retaliatory discharge against public policy is generally available to contract employees. View "Ackerman v. State" on Justia Law

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Retaliatory discharge claims are not categorically reserved for at-will employees. A state administrative law judge (ALJ) brought suit alleging wrongful termination in violation of public policy after she was terminated for giving unfavorable testimony about the director of her division to the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee. The ALJ’s employment was covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The State filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the common law claim of wrongful discharge is reserved for at-will employees. The district court agreed and dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the ALJ’s status as a CBA-covered employee did not preclude her wrongful-discharge claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the common law tort of retaliatory discharge against public policy is generally available to contract employees. View "Ackerman v. State" on Justia Law

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The gestational surrogacy contract in the instant case was legally enforceable in favor of the intended, biological father against a surrogate mother and her husband who were not the child’s genetic parents. Plaintiffs were a married couple who signed a contract with Defendants, the surrogate mother and her husband. The surrogate mother was impregnated with embryos fertilized with the plaintiff-father’s sperm and the eggs of an anonymous donor. After one surviving child was born, Defendants refused to honor the agreement. Plaintiffs sued to enforce the contract and gain custody of the child. The district court concluded that the contract was enforceable, terminated the presumptive parental rights of the surrogate mother and her husband, established paternity in the biological father, and awarded him permanent legal and physical custody. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly established paternity in the biological father based on the undisputed DNA evidence, terminated the presumptive parental rights of Defendants and awarded permanent custody to the biological, intended father. A contrary holding invaliding surrogacy contracts would deprive infertile couples of the opportunity to raise their own biological children and limit the personal autonomy of women willing to serve as surrogates. View "P.M. v. T.B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The district court erred in ruling that the coguarantors of a loan were not entitled to contribution from other guarantors of an underlying debt because the funds used to make the payments on the debt were provided to them by their respective parents. Here, the parents of the coguarantors provided funds to their children to pay part of the underlying debt. The funds were placed in accounts owned or co-owned by the coguarantors, who then paid down a debt with funds drawn from these accounts. The coguarantors sought contribution from the other guarantors of the underlying debt. The district court and court of appeals ruled against the coguarantors. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and reversed the judgment of the district court, holding that the coguarantors were entitled to contribution from other guarantors on the undisputed facts of this case. View "Shcharansky v. Shapiro" on Justia Law

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This case, which turned on the issue of when Plaintiff’s causes of action accrued, must be reversed and remanded for a new trial because genuine factual disputes over the statute of limitations should be resolved by the factfinder. Plaintiff, Defendant’s brother, entrusted Defendant, his sister, with blank checks signed in advance to be used to pay bills of Plaintiff and his adult children while he was out of the country. When he returned, Plaintiff learned that Defendant had written many checks to herself. When Plaintiff asked for all of his money back, Defendant told him it had been spent. Brother sued. At issue was when Plaintiff’s causes of action accrued. If they accrued when Plaintiff learned Defendant had written checks to herself, his claims were time-barred. But if they accrued when Plaintiff was told the money was gone, they were timely. The district court declined to instruct the jury on the statute of limitations, and the jury returned a substantial damage verdict on several of Plaintiff’s legal theories. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court erred in not instructing the jury on statute of limitations at all. View "Shams v. Hassan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants in this case brought by an independent contractor who sued for damages when he purchased a used tractor from a John Deere implement dealer that proved to be a “lemon.” The contractor brought suit against several parties, including the implement dealer. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment of the district court in all respects but reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the contractor’s express warranty claim against the implement dealer. The Supreme Court vacated in part the decision of the court of appeals, holding that the disclaimers contained in the purchase agreement negated any express warranties allegedly made by the implement dealer. View "Cannon v. Bodensteiner Implement Co." on Justia Law