STANDARD WATER CONTROL SYSTEMS, INC., Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant-Appellee,
MICHAEL D. JONES and CORI JONES, Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs-Appellants.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lawrence P.
appeal the district court's grant of trial and appellate
attorney fees to plaintiff on remand.
F. Fatino of Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C., Des Moines, for
C. McDougal and Elizabeth R. Meyer of Davis Brown Law Firm,
Des Moines, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
Blane, S.J., takes no part.
and Cori Jones (the Joneses) appeal the district court's
grant of trial and appellate attorney fees to Standard Water
Control Systems, Inc. (Standard Water) on remand. We find the
district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding trial
attorney fees or attorney fees for a previous appeal. We do
not award any attorney fees for the present appeal. We affirm
the decision of the district court.
Background Facts & Proceedings
November 5, 2014, Standard Water obtained a judgment against
the Joneses for $5400, plus interest of twelve percent, and
costs and attorney fees, on its action for foreclosure of a
mechanic's lien and breach of contract based on work
Standard Water performed at the Joneses'
home. After a separate hearing, the district
court entered an order on February 11, 2015, finding Standard
Water was entitled to attorney fees of $43, 835.25, and costs
Joneses appealed the district court's decision. We
affirmed the award of damages under the mechanic's lien.
Standard Water Control Sys., Inc. v. Jones, 888
N.W.2d 673, 678 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016). In looking at the award
of attorney fees, we looked at the factors found in
Schaffer v. Frank Moyer Construction, Inc., 628
N.W.2d 11, 24 (Iowa 2001). Id. at 679. We stated:
In light of our consideration of the Schaffer
factors, we are not persuaded the attorney fees award should
stand. While recognizing that undue emphasis on the size of
the judgment is improper, the fee award exceeded 800% of the
underlying judgment. Cf. Paper's Lumber & Supply
v. Schipper, No. 12-0103, 2013 WL 750410, at *5 (Iowa
Ct. App. Feb. 27, 2013) (rejecting argument fee award
"above a certain percentage of the underlying judgment
is per se unreasonable, " but noting fee award was
"just over forty percent of the underlying
judgment"). In addition, the district court
underemphasized the time necessarily spent on this
matter given the limited amount at issue and the limited
factual issue presented. We remand for additional
fact-finding to determine an award consistent with the facts
presented in this case and the Schaffer factors.
Id. The Joneses' request for further review was
denied by the Iowa Supreme Court.
hearing was held on remand. The district court reviewed all
of the billings submitted by legal counsel for Standard Water
in which they had originally sought legal fees of $56,
014.25. The court made further reductions, finding some
expenses should be reduced or eliminated, and concluded
Standard Water was entitled to trial attorney fees of $41,
670.25. In addition, Standard Water sought appellate attorney
fees of $29, 144. The court determined Standard Water was not
entirely successful on appeal and reduced the appellate
attorney fee award to $17, 283.44. In total, the court found
the Joneses should pay $58, 953.69 for Standard Water's
Joneses filed a motion pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil
Procedure 1.904(2), claiming Standard Water should only be
entitled to those fees necessary to prove the mechanic's
lien. They also filed a motion to reopen the record, stating
a recent amendment to the mechanic's lien statute was
relevant to the issue of attorney fees. The court ...