from the Iowa District Court for Marshall County, Michael J.
defendant appeals following the district court's decision
in a breach of agreement case. AFFIRMED.
Aron Vaughn and Barry S. Kaplan of Kaplan & Frese, LLP,
Marshalltown, for appellants.
Douglas W. Beals of Moore, McKibben, Goodman & Lorenz,
LLP, Marshalltown, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.
Harris and Tom Harris d/b/a Tom Harris Auction Center
(Harris) appeal the district court's decision concluding
Harris breached the parties' agreement to sell Kevin
Rowley's property at auction. Because we find substantial
evidence to support the district court's conclusions, we
and Beth Rowley dissolved their marriage in 2009. As part of
the property distribution, the court ordered the parties to
sell their extensive collection of antiques and collectibles
at auction. Harris was a witness at the dissolution trial,
and the dissolution court noted Harris testified
the property should be collected, taken to [Harris's]
storage facilities, identified, marked, photographed and
ready for sale. He believed that as many as ten separate and
distinct auctions should be held to clear all of the
inventory. Harris said that he would have several sales
because he would bring in the hodge-podge, the various
classifications of antiques and have specialty sales. For
example, he stated that he would have a large furniture sale,
a toy sale, and an advertising sale. Harris said that the
normal commission for sales of that type was 20% plus
advertising costs. Because he has dealt with the parties in
the past, he said that he would do their sales for a 15%
commission plus advertising.
dissolution decree, the court ordered: "The antiques and
collectibles of the parties shall be placed into the hands of
Tom Harris of Harris Auction for sale and disposition."
A dispute later arose regarding what it meant to place the
property "into the hands of" Harris. A subsequent
hearing occurred, and the court issued a supplemental order
It was the intent of the undersigned at the time the decree
was prepared and filed that the questioned phrase simply mean
that the collectibles and antiques of the parties would be
entrusted to Harris for sale in accordance with his usual and
customary practices. It certainly was not within the
contemplation of the court that the parties would themselves
be responsible for transporting those items to Harris. Harris
explained during trial that his business was fully equipped
and had considerable experience in gathering property for
auction from off-site locations and transporting those items
to his place of business. He testified at the hearing
conducted yesterday that he himself preferred to observe,
identify, inventory, and transport the various items himself.
He further testified that there would be no additional cost
savings if the parties, or either of them, transported the
property to Harris. He would have to undergo the same
procedures once the property arrived at his facility that he
would have undertaken if he had collected the property
court then ordered that "the responsibility for
transporting the parties' antiques and collectibles for
auction sale shall be solely that of Tom Harris." Rowley
agreed that Harris's fee would include the commission,
plus advertising and $15 per hour for transportation. The
auctions were held over the course of a year and ultimately
grossed $407, 462.50. From this amount, Harris deducted his
commission and advertising, along with $6383 for moving
expenses and $39, 810 for labor, which amounted to 2654
hours. Rowley filed suit in February 2015 alleging Harris
breached the agreement by overcharging for the labor and
expenses of moving.
matter was tried to the same judge who presided over the
dissolution proceedings. The court found "that Harris is
entitled to a 15% commission, 10% advertising fee, the buyer
premium,  and $15 per hour for labor transporting
the goods to his place of business." The court noted it
was Rowley's position that once the property reached
Harris's place of business any work done should be part
of the commission. This included the labor to move the
property around to ready it for sale and the expenses
incurred in doing so. Rowley's contention was supported
by his expert's testimony. The court stated the expert
[T]he auctioneer commission usually covers transportation of
the property to be sold. If the property is moved about after
being placed in the possession of the auctioneer, that
expense must be absorbed by the auctioneer. That is also true
for cleaning, ...