JOHN DEPPE and DEPPE JJ, LLC f/k/a DOERSCHER-DEPPE, LLC, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
DOUGLAS H. DEPPE and KIM DOERSCHER-DEPPE, Defendants-Appellees.
from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Mark D.
Deppe and his business, Deppe JJ, LLC, appeal following jury
verdicts in favor of defendants Doug Deppe and Kim
J. Visser and Abbe M. Stensland of Simmons Perrine Moyer
Bergman PLC, Cedar Rapids, for appellants.
D. Bruhn, PLC of Farwell & Bruhn, Clinton, for appellees.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.
Deppe and his business, Deppe JJ, LLC, formerly known as
Doerscher-Deppe, LLC, appeal following jury verdicts in favor
of defendants Doug Deppe and Kim Doerscher-Deppe finding,
among other things, that there was no breach of the
parties' settlement agreement by the defendants.
Plaintiffs assert the district court erred in not giving
their proposed jury instruction defining the term "crop
year" as used in the settlement agreement, arguing the
term is defined by statute, regulation, by the court, by
industry usage, and by the parties. Plaintiffs argue the
district court compounded the error by instructing the jury
that "There is no established legal definition of
'crop year' in this case." Upon our review, we
conclude, based upon the language of the parties'
settlement agreement along with the extrinsic evidence
presented, there was no reversible instructional error.
Further, we conclude that, even if there was instructional
error, it did not result in prejudice because of
Plaintiffs' failure to materially comply with the terms
of the settlement agreement. Accordingly, we affirm the
Background Facts and Proceedings.
appeal concerns the settlement agreement entered into by the
former members of Doerscher-Deppe, LLC ("LLC")-John
Deppe, his cousin Doug Deppe, and Doug's wife Kim
Doerscher-Deppe. Doug, Kim, John, and John's wife,
Joelle, have engaged in farming most of their lives. John,
Doug, and Kim each have experience leasing farm land; Doug
and Kim leased their own land to John, who owned his own
equipment, to farm their land.
father, owner and operator of Doerscher Ag, Ltd., passed away
in 2006. His business owned land that was leased, but, by way
of a trust in favor of Kim's mother, the trust was the
lessor of some of that land and the rents collected were
assigned to Kim's mother. Additionally, Kim's father,
through his business and also individually, continually
leased and farmed other farms. Upon his death, Kim and her
two siblings each inherited a third of their father's
maintain and farm the leases held by Kim's father's
company, which still had time remaining upon them, John,
Doug, and Kim formed LLC in 2007. John owned fifty percent,
and Doug and Kim each owned twenty-five percent. LLC borrowed
money for initial expenses, including paying rent due on the
farmland leased and financing the crops. John custom farmed
the land leased by LLC with his own equipment, and Kim sold
the crops. The LLC would then pay John for his custom farming
out of the proceeds of the sales. The money left in LLC after
the expenses were paid was used to pay down the loan and to
finance LLC's operations for the next year. Kim and Doug
took care of LLC's books, including writing the checks to
pay their landlords, and they maintained the relationships
with their landlords, essentially acting as the face of LLC.
2012, John, Doug, and Kim had disagreements concerning
LLC's operation. Kim's mother terminated her
trust's lease with LLC, as did Kim's brother, on
behalf of Doerscher Ag, Ltd. John eventually filed suit
against Doug and Kim.
LLC's members entered into a settlement agreement in
January 2013, setting forth numerous terms to which the
parties assented. Among many things, the agreement provided
that Kim and Doug would transfer their membership interest in
LLC to John in exchange for a cash settlement. Additionally,
the parties agreed to the following paragraphs at issue here:
3. [LLC] will be entitled to farm [several farms that LLC had
leased, including the Wegener farm, the Curtis farm, the
Merle Doerscher farm, the Kelly farm, and the Carter/Conklin
farm]. . . .
4. Kim and Doug will be entitled to farm the [farmland leased
by Doerscher Ag, Ltd. and the trust]. . . .
5. At the end of the 2013 crop year, all leases are open for