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Fell Partnership v. Heartland Co-op

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 6, 2017

FELL PARTNERSHIP, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
HEARTLAND CO-OP, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Guthrie County, Paul R. Huscher, Judge.

         Heartland Co-op appeals the district court's ruling denying its application to compel arbitration.

          John F. Lorentzen of Nyemaster Goode, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Gina C. Badding of Neu, Minnich, Comito, Halbur, Neu & Badding, P.C., Carroll, for appellee.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Fell Partnership (Fell) filed a lawsuit against Heartland Co-op (Heartland) on February 5, 2016, for breach of contract and conversion based on an oral contract for the sale of soybeans. On April 18, Heartland filed a "motion to dismiss or stay" the court proceedings, claiming the parties were "subject to a written agreement for mandatory mediation." In its motion, Heartland cited the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C., and relied on a contract authorization form signed by Fell, which stated that "National Grain and Feed Association Rules [(NGFA)] apply to all contracts." Heartland claimed rule 29 of the NFGA mandated arbitration of disputes arising out of the February 5th contract. After hearing, on May 2, the district court issued an order denying the motion to dismiss or stay, characterizing Heartland's position as "this matter must be subjected to arbitration" and concluding the "grain authorization form" did not constitute an agreement to arbitrate. Heartland did not appeal this order.

         Heartland then filed an application to compel arbitration on May 25, again arguing the parties were required to arbitrate their dispute, and alternatively that Fell was estopped[1] from denying that a written arbitration agreement existed. In its brief supporting the application to compel, Heartland states "a second purpose of filing the application to compel, and resubmitting the motion to stay, is to preserve effective appellate review of the court's orders." On June 22, the district court denied the application to compel, finding, "This matter was previously addressed by the court on May 2, [2016, ] at which time the court found that there did not exist a contract between the parties which required arbitration." On July 13, Heartland filed a notice of appeal from the June 22 order denying its application to compel arbitration. Fell filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, claiming it was untimely because the May 2 order was a final order from which Heartland was obligated to appeal. Heartland resisted, and our supreme court ordered the issue to be submitted with the appeal. The supreme court then transferred the case to us.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review denial of motions to compel arbitration for corrections of error at law. Wesley Ret. Servs. Inc., v. Hansen Lind Meyer Inc., 594 N.W.2d 22, 29 (Iowa 1999).

         III. Discussion

         a. Appellate jurisdiction and timeliness.

         An appeal "is purely a creature of statute." Bales v. Iowa St. Highway Comm'n, 86 N.W.2d 244, 246 (Iowa 1957). "Generally, a notice of appeal from an order, judgment, or decree must be filed within thirty days from the time judgment is entered." In re Marriage of Okland, 699 N.W.2d 260, 263 (Iowa 2005); see Iowa R. App. P. 6.101(1)(b). All final orders and judgments of the district court on the merits or materially affecting the final decision in a case may be appealed. Iowa R. App. P. 6.103(1). Therefore, an ...


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