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J.R. v. Rush

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 15, 2018

J.R., a minor by her next friend, TaNEALE TOWNER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL G. RUSH and ANN M. RUSH, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Plymouth County, Robert J. Dull, District Associate Judge.

         A plaintiff appeals from the order granting dismissal of her petition in favor of defendants and denying her motion for summary judgment on her conversion claim.

          Glenn A. Metcalf of Metcalf & Beardshear, Moville, for appellant.

          Elizabeth A. Row of Elizabeth A. Row, PC, Sioux City, for appellees.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          DOYLE, Judge.

         J.R. appeals from the order granting dismissal of her petition in favor of Michael and Ann Rush and denying her motion for summary judgment on her conversion claim.

         I. Backgrounds Facts and Proceedings.

         This contentious controversy over $2412.37 contains a lot of lawyer talk but precious little evidence. We have sussed out the following facts from the scant record before us: J.R. was born in 2001. TaNeale Towner is J.R.'s mother. From 2001 until 2015, Michael Rush believed he was J.R.'s biological father.

         In September 2010, a multiple-party savings account was opened at the Bank of Dixon County. The account was opened with J.R.'s tax identification number and birth date. The account was in the names of J.R., Michael Rush, and Ann Rush (Michael's wife). The account required two signatures for withdrawals. Only two signatures appear on the signature card-Michael's and Ann's.[1] The opening deposit was in the amount of $1000. Another $1400 was added to the account by five deposits made in each of the following years ($300 in 2011, $250 in 2012, $300 in 2013, $250 in 2014, and $250 in 2015).

         The evidence establishes that between May 2010 and August 2015, Michael's mother, Karen, sent J.R. four checks totaling $1300.[2] "School/College," "(School)," or "Good Grades/College Fund" is written in the memorandum line of three of the checks.[3] The memo line was left blank on one. The first check, dated May 2010, was made payable to "J.R./Michael or Ann Rush"-the rest were made payable to J.R. The source of the other funds deposited into the account is not established by evidence in our record, but the parties assert all of the funds deposited into the savings account were gifts from Karen to J.R.

         After learning he was not the father of J.R., Michael disestablished paternity in July 2015. On October 21, 2015, Michael and Ann closed the joint savings account and transferred the funds, which then totaled $2412.37, to a checking account along with money from their children, S.R. and F.R. On October 30, 2015, Ann withdrew $5200 from the checking account and deposited it into a 529 plan[4]that names S.R. as the beneficiary. J.R. is not named as a beneficiary.[5] Ann is the account owner, and Michael is the successor owner.

         In March 2017, J.R., by and through her mother, TaNeale Towner, filed a petition alleging Michael and Ann converted the joint savings account funds, depriving J.R. of her ownership use of the funds. She sought compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees. After Michael and Ann filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment and for sanctions, J.R. resisted and moved for summary judgment on the issue of conversion. Following an unreported hearing, the district court denied J.R.'s motion for summary judgment, granted dismissal in favor of Michael and Ann, and denied their motion for sanctions. After post-hearing motions were denied, J.R. appealed.

         II. Scope and ...


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