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Galen Rasmussen v. Robert L. Jackson

April 24, 2013

GALEN RASMUSSEN, PLAINTIFF-COUNTERCLAIM DEFENDANT-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT L. JACKSON, DEFENDANT-COUNTERCLAIM PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wayne County, Sherman W. Phipps, Judge.

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

Robert Jackson appeals the district court's ruling granting judgment and equitable relief to Galen Rasmussen. AFFIRMED.

Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

This appeal stems from a dispute between neighboring landowners concerning land and bison. The central dispute relates to whether the landowners entered into a partnership to raise a bison herd.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Robert Jackson, one Sharon Magee, and another person agreed to raise a common bison herd. Magee owned land across the road from Jackson and purchased a twenty-eight-percent interest in the herd. She paid Jackson to manage her portion of the herd. The entire herd was allowed to graze on her property as well as Jackson's.

Galen Rasmussen became interested in the operation. According to Jackson, he "wanted buffalo, . . . wanted land." At the same time, Magee wanted to exit the operation. Jackson contacted Rasmussen, who bought the land from Magee. He also reached an agreement with Magee to purchase her share of the herd. That agreement was not consummated.

Jackson helped manage Rasmussen's land while Rasmussen was out of the country. Rasmussen, in turn, allowed the entire bison herd to graze on his property.

Eventually, the friendship between the two men deteriorated. Jackson recorded a "right of first refusal" to purchase Rasmussen's land that he asserted was signed by Rasmussen. Rasmussen formally notified Jackson that he could no longer graze the herd on his land.

Rasmussen sued Jackson to quiet title in his land and for slander of title, conversion, "rent, trespass and damages," and punitive damages. Jackson counterclaimed for breach of a partnership agreement and other claimed violations of the Uniform Partnership Act, fraud, exemplary damages, a statutory injunction, replevin, "right of first refusal," breach of contract, deficiency judgment, and attorney fees.

Following trial, the district court (1) quieted title to the land in Rasmussen, (2) rejected Rasmussen's slander of title claim, (3) granted Rasmussen judgment for conversion and rent, trespass, and damages, (4) denied Rasmussen's request for injunctive relief, and (5) did not rule on Rasmussen's punitive damages request. With respect to Jackson's counterclaims, the court found "there is not now, nor has there ever been, a partnership between [Jackson and Rasmussen.]" The court dismissed all counterclaims based on a partnership, did not rule on Jackson's fraud claim, found moot the claim for an injunction, and dismissed the remaining claims.

On appeal, Jackson contends (1) he and Rasmussen were partners, (2) Rasmussen granted him an enforceable "right of first refusal" to purchase Rasmussen's farmland in the event Rasmussen put it on the market, and (3) Rasmussen committed fraud. The parties state that the case was tried in equity and our review is de novo. Based on their agreement, we will review the record de novo.

II. Claims Under Uniform Partnership Act

In his counterclaim, Jackson alleged that Rasmussen entered into an agreement with Magee "for the purchase [of] her 320 acre farm in Wayne County, Iowa, and to purchase her twenty-eight percent (28%) partnership interest in bison ...


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