MITCHELL COUNTY MUTUAL AGENCY, INC., d/b/a TOWN & COUNTRY INSURANCE AGENCY, Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
SCOTT H. GINTHER, Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Mitchell County, Colleen D.
Ginther appeals from the district court's ruling in this
breach-of-contract action. AFFIRMED ON BOTH
H. Ginther, Rockford, pro se appellant.
L. Walk of Walk & Murphy, P.L.C., Osage, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
DANILSON, Chief Judge.
Ginther appeals, and Mitchell County Mutual Agency
cross-appeals, from the district court's ruling in this
breach-of-contract action. Finding no error, we affirm on
County Mutual Agency, Inc., doing business as Town &
Country Insurance Agency (T&C) is an insurance agency
located in Osage, Mitchell County, Iowa. T&C merged with
Harman Insurance in 2004.
1999, the Harman Insurance agency provided property and
liability insurance policies to Gary Ginther (father) and
Scott Ginther (son). Gary and Scott farmed several parcels of
farmland together and were the named insureds of several
procured Howard County Mutual Insurance Association policies
covering various real and personal properties. Harman
Insurance agency and the Ginthers participated in a form of
"agency billing." Harman Insurance paid to Howard
County Mutual the Ginthers' various insurance premiums as
they came due throughout the year. Once or twice a year, Gary
would write a check to Harman Insurance for all amounts due
billing practice continued after Harman Insurance merged with
T&C in 2004. The records indicate that from
through 2011, Gary paid about $6000 by May of each year and
the balance of sums due-roughly $9000-in late December. In
2012 and 2013, Gary did not make an early payment. At the end
of 2012, Scott and Gary met with Scott Wilde of T&C and
paid the 2012 payments due. In 2013, Scott paid T&C.
Although not paid by the Ginthers in 2014, T&C continued
to pay the insurance premiums as they came due in 2014.
died on July 23, 2014. His last will and testament was
admitted without administration. Gary's property was
transferred through the terms of the Gary Ginther Revocable
Trust, which had been created on October 26, 2010. Notice of
proof of will without administration was published ending
August 14, 2014. Notice to creditors as to an irrevocable
trust was published shortly thereafter.
dispute arose with Scott Ginther about payment to T&C at
the end of 2014. Scott Ginther met with Scott Wilde in
December 2014. Ginther wrote a check for sums due on the
insurance policies but then stopped payment on the check and
cancelled the policies. Some refunds were issued to T&C
on the cancelled policies that reduced the amount owed, but
no additional payments have been made to T&C to reimburse
the amounts paid on the policy premiums.
filed this action against Scott Ginther, the Gary Ginther
Irrevocable Trust, and the Gary Ginther Revocable Trust
(together the Ginther defendants) for "account stated as
an agreement" and an open account, asking for judgment
in the amount of $12, 204.67, plus interest-the amount paid
by T&C for the 2014 insurance policies. The matter was
tried as an alternative expedited civil action pursuant to
Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.281. The Ginther defendants
filed no response to requests for admission, filed no exhibit
list, and did not submitted proposed exhibits in a timely
manner. T&C presented the testimony of Scott Wilde and
exhibits. The Ginther defendants presented no
October 5, 2016, the court entered judgment in favor of
T&C and against Scott Ginther, finding:
Here, I find a contractual obligation for the coverage
provided by Town & Country and the amounts billed for it.
Gary affirmatively made the arrangements and knew the
details. Scott was aware that Gary had arranged insurance
coverage for their joint operation with Town & Country,
and he benefited from it. Scott may not have known the
details of it, but he did not object and he did not further
inquire. He simply accepted the arrangement and the coverage.
Because insurance is not free, Scott had reason to know that
the coverage was provided with the expectation of
compensation. See Restatement (Second) of Contracts
§ 69 cmt. a (1981), as cited in Roger's
Backhoe [Serv., Inc. v. Nicholes], 681 N.W.2d
[647, ] 651 [(Iowa 2004)].
court found no basis for finding the Ginther Trust liable. It
also rejected T&C's right to payment under theories
of quantum meruit and unjust enrichment because T&C had
not pled those theories. The court awarded T&C attorney
fees because of discovery and trial scheduling and discovery
Ginther appeals, and T&C cross-appeals.
contract action tried to the court is reviewed for errors at
law. Rogers Backhoe, 681 N.W.2d at 649. "Trial
court findings of fact are binding on us if supported by
substantial evidence, but we are not precluded from inquiry
into whether erroneous rules of law materially affected the
contends T&C's billing practice constituted a
violation of the consumer credit code, and it is not ...