from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Timothy J.
appeal the trial court's judgment in this breach of
contract action. AFFIRMED.
Linebaugh and Angela Morales of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Des
Moines, for appellants.
Brenton D. Soderstrum of Brown, Winick, Graves, Gross,
Baskerville & Schoenebaum, P.L.C., Des Moines, for
by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.
matter arises out of a construction contract dispute. The
matter was tried to the district court. The district court
found defendant subcontractor, Mallory Fire Protection
Services, Inc. (Mallory), breached its contract with
plaintiff general contractor, Pro Commercial, LLC (Pro
Commercial). The district court found Pro Commercial suffered
$262, 105.36 in damages and entered judgment accordingly. On
appeal, Mallory contends Pro Commercial failed to prove its
damages were reasonable, the trial court erred in not
requiring the replacement subcontractor to testify as to its
hourly rates, Pro Commercial failed to mitigate its damages
properly, and Pro Commercial failed to provide the
pre-termination notice required under their subcontract
parties disagree on the applicable standard of review. The
matter was tried at law. See Iowa R. App. P.
6.904(3)(a). Generally, our review would be for the
correction of legal error. See Iowa R. App. P.
6.907; NevadaCare, Inc. v. Dep't of Human
Servs., 783 N.W.2d 459, 465 (Iowa 2010); EnviroGas,
L.P. v. Cedar Rapids/Linn Cty. Solid Waste Agency, 641
N.W.2d 776, 780 (Iowa 2002). Under this standard, the
district court's findings of fact "shall have the
effect of a special verdict." Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. The
district court's findings of fact are binding if
supported by substantial evidence. See Land O'Lakes,
Inc. v. Hanig, 610 N.W.2d 518, 522 (Iowa 2000); Van
Oort Constr. Co. v. Nuckoll's Concrete Serv., Inc.,
599 N.W.2d 684, 689 (Iowa 1999). Evidence is substantial
"when a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to
reach a conclusion." Falczynski v. Amoco Oil
Co., 533 N.W.2d 226, 230 (Iowa 1995). Evidence is viewed
in a light most favorable to the trial court's judgment.
See Van Oort Constr., 599 N.W.2d at 689; Arbie
Mineral Feed Co. v. Nissen, 179 N.W.2d 593, 595 (Iowa
1970) ("We do not weigh the evidence; we only decide if
there is a proper basis upon which the trial court could find
as it did."); Grall v. Meyer, 173 N.W.2d 61, 63
(Iowa 1969) ("[W]e construe the evidence broadly to
uphold, rather than defeat, the trial court's
judgment."). Evidence is not insubstantial "merely
because [the court] may draw different conclusions from it;
the ultimate question is whether it supports the finding
actually made, not whether the evidence would support a
different finding." Raper v. State, 688 N.W.2d
29, 36 (Iowa 2004); see Portzen Constr., Inc. v. Cal-Co
Insulation, Inc., No. 13-0758, 2014 WL 2347821, at *4
(Iowa Ct. App. May 29, 2014) ("Our role as the reviewing
court is not, however, to dissect the record anew to reach
our own factual findings.").
contends a less deferential standard of review is required
here. The district court adopted Pro Commercial's
proposed findings and conclusions verbatim, Mallory argues.
See NevadaCare, 783 N.W.2d at 465 ("We have
recognized counsels' submission of proposed findings of
fact and conclusions of law can be extremely valuable in
assisting the district court, especially in highly technical
or complicated cases. Nonetheless, we have criticized the
practice of a district court's verbatim adoption of the
proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law prepared by
a prevailing attorney because 'the decision on review
reflects the findings of the prevailing litigant rather than
the court's own scrutiny of the evidence and articulation
of controlling legal principles.'" (citations
omitted)). Our comparison of the district court's order
with Pro Commercial's proposed findings and conclusions
shows the district court did not adopt Pro Commercial's
posttrial filing verbatim. Instead, the district court's
findings and conclusions used some of Pro Commercial's
proposed language but made significant and material changes,
changes which demonstrate the exercise of independent
judgment. We thus reject Mallory's contention that less
deferential review should be applied here.
2013, Iowa State University (ISU) solicited bids for
installation of a fire sprinkler system in one of its
dormitories, Friley Hall. Pro Commercial submitted the low
bid on the project. This bid included a bid from Mallory as
subcontractor. ISU accepted the bid.
project was split in two phases: 1A and 1B. Because ISU
wanted the dormitory to be available to students when classes
commenced, the ISU-Pro Commercial agreement included strict
completion deadlines, which were enforced by a $100 per day
per room liquidated damages clause, a total of $20, 200 for
every day Pro Commercial was late.
required Pro Commercial to post a performance bond. In turn,
Pro Commercial's bonding company required Pro Commercial
to obtain a bond from Mallory. Mallory had bonding
limitations at $250, 000. To meet those requirements, Pro
Commercial and Mallory entered into three separate
subcontract agreements: (1) a $250, 000 Phase 1A labor
subcontract; (2) a $250, 000 Phase 1B labor subcontract; and
(3) a $515, 000 Phase 1A and 1B subcontract covering costs of
materials and bonding. Mallory obtained bonds from Western
Surety Company; Pro Commercial was named the obligee.
the Pro Commercial-Mallory subcontract agreements, Mallory
was to submit payment applications. Pro Commercial was to pay
Mallory once it had been paid by ISU. Pro Commercial could
terminate Mallory if the subcontractor became insolvent,
failed to supply sufficiently skilled workers, or failed to
meet its contractual obligations. If terminated, Mallory was