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Betty Gunderson v. Dianna K. Engelbrecht

January 24, 2013

BETTY GUNDERSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DIANNA K. ENGELBRECHT, TRUSTEE OF THE NELLIE A. LARSEN AND SHIRLEY B. MARTS TRUST, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.
DIANNA K. ENGELBRECHT, TRUSTEE OF THE NELLIE A. LARSEN AND SHIRLEY B. MARTS TRUST, COUNTER CLAIMANT,
v.
BETTY GUNDERSON, COUNTERCLAIM-DEFENDANT.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Franklin County, Colleen D. Weiland, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tabor, J.

Betty Gunderson appeals a district court's order granting partial summary judgment. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.

Betty Gunderson appeals an order granting partial summary judgment on her June 16, 2010 petition seeking compensation for care-taking services she performed for Shirley Marts. The district court found the two-year statute of limitations at Iowa Code section 614.1(8) (2009) barred Gunderson's claim for unpaid wages for the period from January 2005 through June 2006. Gunderson argues that because she agreed to be paid when Marts sold stock, her claim did not accrue until the stock sale occurred.

Because the district court erred as a matter of law in finding Gunderson's claim accrued when the agreement was modified in July 2006, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Gunderson began providing in-home care for Marts in spring 2001. In their initial oral contract, Gunderson agreed to provide daily in-home services for up to eight hours a day at a rate of $10.00 per hour. Between 2001 and 2005, Marts and Gunderson periodically modified the hours and payment terms of their oral agreement based on fluctuations in Marts's health. Gunderson also hired a second caregiver, Brenda Thompson, to be on-call when Gunderson was unavailable. Marts paid Gunderson out of a trust she shared with her sister.

In January 2005, Marts requested Gunderson increase her in-home care to twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, at ten dollars per hour. Concerned these expenses would deplete her trust, Marts offered to pay Gunderson when she sold some Verizon stock, which Marts held in her own name separate from the trust assets. After Marts presented proof of ownership, Gunderson acquiesced to the alternative compensation scheme. She provided overnight care under these terms for 547 nights until July 2006, expecting to be compensated when Marts sold the stock.*fn1

In July 2006, Marts's niece, Dianna Engelbrecht, objected to Gunderson's pay rate. Consequently Marts and Gunderson modified the in-home care agreement to seven dollars per hour to be paid weekly. In May 2008, Marts nominated Gunderson to be her attorney-in-fact. Their seven dollars per hour agreement remained in effect until Engelbrecht became Marts's guardian and conservator on July 29, 2009, at which time Engelbrecht terminated Gunderson's services and revoked her authority as attorney-in-fact. Seven months later, Marts passed away.

As trustee, Engelbrecht published a notice of revocable trust and Gunderson timely filed a claim in Franklin County in June 2010 for her 547 nights of uncompensated services in addition to other various expenses. Engelbrecht filed an answer denying Gunderson's claim and alleging Gunderson violated her fiduciary duty as Marts's attorney-in-fact. Engelbrecht's answer also included an affirmative defense that Gunderson brought her compensation claim outside the two-year statute of limitations. In January 2011, Engelbrecht filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the basis that Gunderson's claim was time-barred.

On March 31, 2001, the district court granted Engelbrecht's motion, finding Gunderson's claim for compensation from January 2005 through June 2006 was a claim for wages that accrued in July 2006, "when she and Marts agreed upon the terms of payment of Gunderson's 'liquidated' and already-earned wages." The court concluded that because Iowa Code section 614.1(8) requires a claim for wages to be filed within two years, her June 2010 claim is barred by the statute of limitations.

After the court denied Gunderson's subsequent application for permission to appeal in advance of the final judgment, the parties settled the action's remaining issues and reserved Gunderson's right to appeal the final judgment regarding her compensation. On January 3, 2012, the court reaffirmed its summary judgment and dismissed the case, recognizing Gunderson's right to appeal the court's grant of partial summary judgment.

II. Scope and Standard of Review

We review summary judgment rulings for corrections of legal error. Robinson v. Allied Property & Cas. Ins. Co., 816 N.W.2d 398, 401 (Iowa 2012). Summary judgment is proper only if no genuine issue of material fact appears on record and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Employers Mut. Cas. Co. v. Van Haaften, 815 N.W.2d 17, 22 (Iowa 2012). If reasonable minds can resolve an issue differently, it is genuine, and if a fact may affect the outcome of a case, it is material. Seneca Waste Solutions, Inc. v. Sheaffer Mfg. Co., 791 N.W.2d 407, 411 (Iowa 2010). We view the record in the light most favorable to the resisting party and consider on behalf of that party every legitimate inference we may reasonably deduce from the record. Van Fossen v. MidAmerican ...


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