Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court

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An aviation company challenged the application of a statutory immunity provision to its claim of a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability found in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) arising from an alleged defect in product design or manufacturing. The issue this appeal presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the immunity provision only applied in tort cases or if it also applied to contracts. The Court held the statutory immunity only applied in products liability cases involving personal injury or property damage, not in cases based solely on economic loss. View "Des Moines Flying Service, Inc. v. Aerial Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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A federal district court certified two questions of law to the Iowa Supreme Court in a priority dispute between competing creditors of a bankrupt hog operation. Crooked Creek Corporation operated a farrow-to-finish hog facility where it bred gilts and sows and raised their litters for slaughter. After the company filed for bankruptcy, the hogs were sold, but the sale did not generate enough money to pay off competing liens asserted by two of Crooked Creek’s creditors: Oyens Feed & Supply, Inc. and Primebank. Oyens Feed held an agricultural supply dealer lien because it sold Crooked Creek feed “on credit . . . to fatten the hogs to market weight.” Primebank had a perfected article 9 security interest in the hogs to secure two promissory notes predating Oyens Feed’s section 570A.5(3) agricultural supply dealer lien in the hogs. At trial, Oyens Feed claimed it was entitled to all of the escrowed funds because its agricultural supply dealer lien had superpriority over Primebank’s earlier perfected security interest. The bankruptcy court concluded the plain meaning of section 570A.4 created a “discrete window of time,” beginning with the farmer’s purchase of feed and ending thirty-one days later, within which an agricultural supply dealer must file a financing statement to perfect its lien. The bankruptcy court concluded Oyens Feed had only perfected its lien as to amounts for feed delivered in the thirty-one days preceding the filing of each of its financing statements. In reaching its decision on the extent of Oyens Feed’s lien in the escrowed funds, the bankruptcy court reasoned the acquisition price of the hogs was zero because Crooked Creek raised hogs from birth rather than purchasing them. The court concluded “the ‘purchase price’ comprises the vast majority, if not all of, the ‘acquisition price’ for . . . purposes of Iowa Code § 570A.5(3).” The United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa asked the Iowa Supreme Court: (1) whether, pursuant to Iowa Code section 570A.4(2), was an agricultural supply dealer required to file a new financing statement every thirty-one (31) days in order to maintain perfection of its agricultural supply dealer’s lien as to feed supplied within the preceding thirty-one (31) day period?; and (2) whether pursuant to Iowa Code section 570A.5(3), was the “acquisition price” zero when the livestock are born in the farmer’s facility? The Supreme Court answered both certified questions in the affirmative. View "Oyens Feed & Supply, Inc. v. Primebank" on Justia Law

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The Attorney General brought an action against Corporation, which sold memberships in buying programs giving members the option to purchase various goods and services at discounted rates, alleging violations of the Buying Club Membership Law (BCL) and the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) and seeking civil penalties for consumer frauds committed against the elderly. The district court concluded (1) many of Corporation's marketing and sales practices violated the BCL and CFA; (2) Corporation did not commit consumer frauds against the elderly; and (3) application of the BCL to Corporation's solicitation practices did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause. The court awarded more than $25 million in consumer reimbursement, civil penalties, and attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and modified, holding (1) Corporation's telemarketing and Internet practices violated the CFA; (2) Corporation's solicitations and its memberships offering one or more discount features were subject to the terms of the BCL; (3) application of the BCL to Corporation's solicitations did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause; (4) affirmed the reimbursement award for BCL violations as modified; and (5) reversed the ruling that the State was not entitled to civil penalties for consumer frauds committed by the elderly. View "State ex rel. Miller v. Vertrue, Inc." on Justia Law

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The majority shareholder of a family farm corporation served as a director and officer of the corporation. A minority shareholder of the corporation (Plaintiff) sued the corporation and the majority shareholder (collectively, Defendants), alleging that illegal, oppressive, and fraudulent acts by the majority shareholder resulted in waste of the corporation's assets and constituted a breach of fiduciary duty. At the close of Plaintiff's evidence at trial, Defendants moved for a directed verdict. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the action, concluding that Plaintiff had presented no evidence that Defendants had acted fraudulently, illegally, or oppressively. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff's oppression claim because the court did not apply the correct legal standard in the adjudication of the oppression claim. Remanded. View "Baur v. Baur Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

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The board of directors of a nonprofit condominium association approved necessary but nonemergency repairs to the association's parking garage without a full vote by its members. The repairs were completed at an amount eight times greater than the theshold in the bylaw, which required preapproval of a supermajority of owners to authorize certain expenditures exceeding $25,000. Several condominium owners sued for a judicial declaration that the board's violation of the bylaw's preapproval requirement excused their obligation to pay. The association counterclaimed against the owners to collect their share of the completed repairs and for attorney fees. The district court ruled in favor of the owners. The Supreme Court reversed, (1) holding that the business judgment rule applies to the governance decisions of this board when it acts within its authority; and (2) because the bylaw at issue was ambiguous, the Court deferred to the board's authority under the governing declaration to decide questions of interpretation or application of the bylaws. Remanded.

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A bank attempted to prove an accounting negligence claim by using an expert witness to testify regarding the accountant's audit of a lumber company. The district court refused to allow the expert to testify as to generally accepted CPA auditing standards, whether the accountant breached those standards, and causation. The district court left open the question of whether the expert could testify as to the accountant's work papers. At trial, the bank made an offer of proof as to the work papers but did not move to introduce them, and so the court never ruled on their admissibility. The jury returned a verdict finding the accountant did not negligently perform the audit. The court of appeals reversed the district court and remanded for a new trial. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding (1) the bank failed to preserve error on the work-paper issue, and (2) the expert was not qualified to testify on the ultimate issue of whether the accountant violated generally accepted accounting standards because the expert lacked the knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to provide an adequate basis for this testimony.

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An executor brought a cause of action against a bank for failing to obtain approval for investments it made on behalf of the deceased when the deceased was under conservatorship and the bank acted as conservator. The district court dismissed the executor's claim. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the conservator's failure to seek prior approval of the investment of the ward's property under Iowa Code 633.647 did not, in and of itself, make the conservator personally liable for losses caused by the investment; (2) to find the conservator personally liable for losses caused by an investment, the executor must prove a breach of fiduciary duty under Iowa Code 633.633A; and (3) in this case, the executor failed to prove a breach of fiduciary duty.

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Gerald Kirke and Wild Rose Entertainment (collectively, defendants), entered into an agreement with John Pavone and Signature Management Group (collectively, plaintiffs), stating the ownership and management relationship between the parties upon the opening of casino projects within the state. Wild Rose later terminated the agreement, and plaintiffs sued defendants for breach of contract and other claims. The district court sustained defendants' motion for a directed verdict on most of plaintiffs' claims but allowed the breach of contract claims. After a jury trial, the district court found Wild Rose breached the agreement and awarded plaintiffs ten million dollars in damages. Defendants filed a motion for a new trial, which the district court denied. The court of appeals reversed the judgment and remanded the case for judgment in favor of defendants. On review, the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the appellate court and affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding, inter alia, that the district court did not err in (1) overruling defendants' motion for a directed verdict on plaintiffs' breach of contract claims; (2) allowing the jury to award damages for a period of as much as thirty years; and (3) denying defendants' motion for a new trial.