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Flynn Builders, L.C. v. Lande

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 23, 2014

FLYNN BUILDERS, L.C., Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MATTHEW P. LANDE and CHRIS LANDE, Defendant-Appellants

Editorial Note:

This decision has been referenced in a "Decisions Without Published Opinions" table in the North Western Reporter.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Boone County, William C. Ostlund, Judge. Homeowners appeal the district court's remand decision to award damages to their general contractor.

Duane M. Huffer of Huffer Law, P.L.C. (until withdrawal), Story City, for appellants.

Meredeth C. Mahoney Nerem and John D. Jordan of Jordan & Mahoney Law Firm, P.C., Boone, for appellee.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

OPINION

VOGEL, P.J.

Homeowners, Matthew and Chris Lande, appeal the district court's ruling, following a remand from the Iowa Supreme Court, which awarded $16,296.00 to their contactor, Flynn Builders, L.C. The Landes claim the district court failed to heed the opinion of the supreme court and issued an opinion in contravention to the supreme court's decision. They also claim the district court incorrectly found they had a duty to pay Flynn Builders before the work was completed. They assert the court should have found Flynn Builders's actions preclude its recovery because of its fraud. In addition, the Landes claim the court should have awarded them damages and attorney fees, and the court was not impartial with its rulings.

Because we find the district court exceeded its remand jurisdiction in finding Flynn Builders substantially performed the building contract, we strike that portion of the district court's decision. However, we affirm the district court's conclusion that Flynn Builders was excused from substantial performance because of the Landes' prior breach when the Landes refused to pay under the contract and that the hidden markup on the building materials did not materially affect the parties' contractual obligations. We find no evidence of bias or impartiality on the part of the district court, and we award $5000 in appellate attorney fees to Flynn Builders.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS.

This is the third time this case has been before an appellate court, and the second time it has been before this court. The facts of this case have been thoroughly and completely addressed in the previous two appellate cases, and we will not again repeat them here. See Flynn Builders, L.C. v. Lande (Flynn Builders II), 814 N.W.2d 542, 544--45 (Iowa 2012); Flynn Builders, L.C. v. Lande (Flynn Builders I), 807 N.W.2d 296, 2011 WL 4578518, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. 2011), vacated in part, 814 N.W.2d at 548.

The Iowa Supreme Court determined Flynn Builders did not substantially perform the contract, reversing the decision of our court and the district court on this issue. Flynn Builders II, 814 N.W.2d at 546. The evidence showed approximately 80% of the home was completed when Flynn Builders walked off the job. Id. The supreme court ruled,

While [n]o mathematical rule relating to the percentage of the price, of costs of completion, or of completeness can be laid down to determine substantial performance of a building contract, the work left unfinished in this case was much more than a technical or inadvertent omission; rather the omissions materially affected the habitability of the house.

Id. at 547 (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). While it resolved the substantial performance issue, the supreme court recognized that " there may be additional legal and factual issues not reached by the district court that have an impact on the disposition of the case." Id. ...


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