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Stegen v. Hanson

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 10, 2013

LLOYD STEGEN and JEREMIAH STEGEN, Co-Conservators of DANIEL M. HANSON, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
BRUCE C. HANSON and KALEEN KIRCHNER HANSON, Defendants-Appellants.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Allamakee County, Margaret L. Lingreen, Judge.

The defendants appeal the district court's order rescinding a warranty deed.

Barrett M. Gipp of Anderson, Wilmarth, Van Der Maaten, Belay & Fretheim, Decorah, for appellants.

James Burns of Miller, Pearson, Gloe, Burns, Beatty & Parrish, P.L.C., Decorah, for appellees.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Danilson and Mullins, JJ.

DOYLE, P.J.

Defendants Bruce and Kaleen Hanson appeal the district court's order sustaining the petition of Lloyd and Jeremiah Stegen, co-conservators of Daniel Hanson, and rescinding and annulling a March 2010 warranty deed that conveyed Daniel's one-fifth interest in eighty acres of Allamakee County real estate to Bruce and Kaleen. Because we conclude the facts of this case do not support a finding of mutual mistake between the contracting parties at the time the warranty deed was executed, we reverse the order of the district court and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Daniel Hanson is now twenty-eight years old. His mother, Lila, was killed in a traffic accident in 1997. Daniel and his four siblings, all minors at the time of Lila's death, were then raised by their maternal grandparents, Lyle and Helen Stegen.

Lyle and Helen owned in excess of 200 acres of farmland in Allamakee County. In 2008, they divided their land into three parcels. They conveyed one parcel each to their sons, Lloyd and Lee, and the third parcel in equal shares to the five children of their deceased daughter, Lila. The parcel conveyed to the grandchildren comprised approximately eighty acres, and included Lyle and Helen's residence, outbuildings, timber, and crop ground. Although they did not legally do so, Lyle and Helen intended to retain a life estate in the property.

Daniel has a history of substance abuse. Although described by his family as bright, he did not complete high school. As an adult, Daniel has lived a "vagrant or homeless lifestyle in different parts of the county, " and has been "unable to hold a job" for any significant period of time.

Sometime in 2010, Daniel was living in Waterloo with his father and came into contact with his paternal uncle, defendant Bruce Hanson. Daniel was "broke" and unemployed. He told Bruce he had land and money[1] for sale. According to Bruce, who was aware of Daniel's history of substance abuse, Daniel was "sober" and "looked pretty good."

Daniel offered to sell his one-fifth interest in the eighty-acre parcel of his grandparent's farm. Bruce investigated public records pertaining to the property and decided he was interested in purchasing Daniel's interest. In his research, Bruce learned the property was assessed at $81, 000, with approximately $4000 in liens against it.

When they met again, Bruce told Daniel he was "crazy" to sell the property. Daniel viewed the property as an asset but he did not "derive any income from it" so he was "actively trying to sell it." Bruce tried to trade Daniel a house for the land, but Daniel "turned down that offer." Daniel "planned on leaving town" and did not "want to be tied down" with a house in Waterloo. Instead, Daniel set a price of $750 per acre, for a total of $11, 326.50. Daniel and Bruce discussed the sale on several different days before they came to an agreement. In addition, they spoke to Daniel's family members to tell them Bruce was "thinking about buying it." No family member objected except Lee Stegen, Daniel's maternal uncle, because he wanted to buy it for himself, [2] but Daniel refused to sell it to Lee "for any amount of money." ...


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