from the Iowa District Court for Osceola County, Don E.
corporation and three individuals appeal from the denial of
their post-judgment motion to void the judgment and motion to
enlarge. AFFIRMED IN PART, VOIDED IN PART, AND REMANDED.
Krull of Waagmeester Law Office, P.L.C., Rock Rapids, for
E. Lande and Thomas D. Hanson of Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler
& Hagen, P.C., Des Moines, for appellee.
by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.
appeal stems from disputes between shareholders of Buysman,
Inc. (Buysman). The plaintiff, the Estate of Tena Steensma,
filed the underlying lawsuit against the Buysman corporation
(later adding the individual defendants, Jesse, Dale, and
Danna Braaksma) for failure to perform a 2011 stock
redemption agreement. The estate owned half the shares of
Buysman; Jesse Braaksma owned the other half.
district court granted summary judgment in favor of the
estate, required Jesse to relinquish his shares in Buysman,
and entered judgment in the amount of $203, 930.32 jointly
and severally against the four defendants.
and the Braaksmas filed a post-judgment motion, which the
court denied, and they then filed this appeal of the district
court's ruling. The estate filed a motion to dismiss,
arguing the appeal was untimely and should be dismissed for
lack of jurisdiction.The defendants respond that the motion they
filed following the court's January 11, 2017 ruling was
not an Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904(2) motion to
enlarge or amend but rather a motion to challenge the ruling
as void-which can be done at any time-and they timely
appealed from the court's ruling on that motion.
determine the appeal is timely and reach the merits, Buysman
and the Braaksmas ask that we find the district court's
ruling is void as to each of the four defendants because the
court failed to rule on a pending motion before entering the
ruling and because defendant Jesse Braaksma, a non-lawyer,
was allowed to represent himself, as well as Dale and Danna
Braaksma and the corporation in the proceedings. They
maintain the proper remedy is to declare the ruling and
judgment void and remand the case to the trial court for
further proceedings. The estate argues that the judgment
should be affirmed as to each of the four defendants.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
is a corporation comprised of 320 acres of farmland. Dale
Braaksma and Tena Steensma purchased equal shares in Buysman
in 2003 for a total value of $736, 000. Dale conveyed
half of his shares to his wife Danna in 2003, and in 2004
Dale and Danna conveyed all of their shares to their son
Jesse. The Braaksmas have always held the majority, if not
all, of the director and officer positions in Buysman. Jesse
rents farmland from Buysman.
Steensma passed away in 2010. Her estate's claims against
Buysman and the Braaksmas include that Jesse does not pay
fair market value for the land he rents and consistently has
lower yields than the county average.
March 2015, the estate filed a petition for dissolution
against Buysman asserting lack of proper accounting, breach
of fiduciary duty, oppression, breach of contract for failing
to uphold a redemption agreement, unjust enrichment, and
civil conspiracy. Buysman filed an answer through counsel in
April. In December 2015, the estate filed a motion to amend
to add Dale, Danna, and Jesse as defendants.
counsel withdrew in January 2016. A thirty-day stay was
granted in order for Buysman to obtain new counsel. At a
March telephonic hearing on the estate's motion to amend
the petition and add new parties, Jesse participated on
behalf of Buysman, himself, and his parents to resist the
motion to amend. The estate objected to
Buysman appearing without counsel. In reply, Jesse stated he
intended to employ a lawyer, but "would not object to
[the estate's] objection. I would rather be represented.
That is my intention, but so far I have not been able to find
anyone." At the end of the hearing, the court admonished
Jesse, "[Y]ou need to get counsel employed on behalf of
Buysman, Inc. as soon as possible." The court granted
the estate's petition to add the three Braaksmas as
parties and stated, "On this occasion the court allowed
Mr. Braaksma, a nonlawyer to participate but cautioned him
that the corporation needed to employ an attorney for future
Buysman nor the Braaksmas filed an answer or any response to
the estate's amended petition. On April 12, the estate
filed a notice of intent to file for entry of default
judgment against Buysman and the Braaksmas. On April 22,
Buysman and the Braaksmas filed a "Joint Motion to
Dismiss" with individual signature lines for Buysman and
each of the Braaksmas. None had counsel of record at that
time. The estate filed a resistance as to all parties,
arguing as to Buysman that the corporation could not file a
motion unrepresented by counsel. The district court did not
rule on the motion to dismiss until its denial of the
estate filed a second application for default specifically
against Buysman on May 19. Buysman was still unrepresented by
counsel. The estate argued Buysman had not filed a responsive
pleading as required by Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.303 in
response to the estate's amended petition, both because a
motion to dismiss is not a responsive pleading tolling the
deadline in rule 1.303 and an answer had not been filed, and
because Buysman had not filed anything through counsel. The
district court did not rule on the estate's applications
for default, although the court mentioned in its ruling on
summary judgment filed in January 2017 that Buysman was in
Braaksma continued to participate on behalf of Buysman. His
parents separately signed motions and pleadings. In June,
Buysman and the Braaksmas filed a motion for extension of
time to respond to the estate's motion to remove
confidentiality from bank documents. In July, they filed a
resistance to the ...