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GreatAmerica Financial Services Corp. v. Prestwood Funeral Home, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

GREATAMERICA FINANCIAL SERVICES CORPORATION f/k/a GREATAMERICA LEASING CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
v.
PRESTWOOD FUNERAL HOME, INC. and ROY VANCE PRESTWOOD JR., Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Sean W. McPartland, Judge.

         Both parties appeal the district court's decision following a bench trial involving the terms of a copy machine lease agreement. AFFIRMED AND REMANDED.

          Peter C. Riley of Tom Riley Law Firm, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellants.

          Abbe M. Stensland of Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

          VOGEL, Judge.

         Prestwood Funeral Home, Inc. and Roy Vance Prestwood Jr. (Prestwood) appeal, and GreatAmerica Financial Services Corporation (GreatAmerica) cross-appeals, following the district court's decision interpreting the terms of the parties' lease agreement for a copy machine. Prestwood contends substantial evidence does not support the district court's decision that awarded damages to GreatAmerica and the district court abuse its discretion in the amount awarded for GreatAmerica's attorney fee claim. In its cross-appeal, GreatAmerica claims the attorney fee award should be increased. We affirm the district court's decision in its entirety, denying both the appeal and cross-appeal, and we remand for a determination of appellate attorney fees.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Prestwood signed a contract to finance the lease of a copy machine with Modular Document Solutions. That lease agreement was assigned by Modular to GreatAmerica. The lease agreement provided for a monthly payment by Prestwood, in addition to charges for each copy made. The copy machine was delivered to Prestwood by Modular on February 6, 2009. An employee of GreatAmerica called Prestwood on February 9 to inquire whether the copy machine was installed and working. Prestwood informed GreatAmerica that the copy machine was present but not yet working and that Modular would be out again the next day to fix it. The same GreatAmerica employee called Prestwood the next day, February 10, and testified Roy Prestwood informed her the equipment was working, but Prestwood wanted credit for the number of copies the service technician made in fixing the machine. A notation of the credit was made on the account. Prestwood continued making payments on the lease agreement but also continued to complain about problems with the functioning of the machine. After making fifteen monthly payments, Prestwood stopped paying on the lease; GreatAmerica repossessed the copy machine and filed suit.[1]

         The case proceeded to a one-day bench trial in February 2016. The court ruled in GreatAmerica's favor, awarding $12, 766.28 in damages. In response to posttrial motions, the court also awarded GreatAmerica $25, 000 in attorney fees and expenses, and ordered interest to accrue at the contract rate of eighteen percent.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review.

         We review for the correction of errors at law the district court's judgment following a bench trial. Chrysler Fin. Co. v. Bergstrom, 703 N.W.2d 415, 418 (Iowa 2005).

The district court's findings of fact have the force of a special verdict and are binding on us if supported by substantial evidence. Evidence is substantial if a reasonable person would accept it as adequate to reach a conclusion. "Evidence is not insubstantial merely because we 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." In determining whether ...

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