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Jamison v. Coddington

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 15, 2018

JIM JAMISON d/b/a J&S AG SERVICES, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DARRELL J. CODDINGTON and WENDY CODDINGTON, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wayne County, Dustria A. Relph, Judge.

         Plaintiff-appellant appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants-appellees.

          David L. Leitner of Leitner Law Office, West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Verle W. Norris, Corydon, for appellees.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., Doyle, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          BLANE, Senior Judge.

         Plaintiff Jim Jamison d/b/a J & S Ag Services (Jamison) appeals from the district court's grant of defendants Darrell and Wendy Coddington's motion for summary judgment.[1] After our review of the record in this case, we find the district court properly found no dispute of material fact, correctly applied the law, and did not err in granting the Coddingtons' motion for summary judgment.

         I. Factual and procedural background.

         In April 2016, Jamison filed a petition against Coddington alleging that in 2014 Coddington entered into an oral contract with him for the purchase of soybean seed and for Jamison to custom spray a chemical application to the crop, including purchase of the applied chemicals, but that Coddington then failed to pay. Coddington filed an answer denying Jamison's claims, asserting affirmative defenses as well as a counterclaim for abuse of process.[2] Jamison and Coddington were deposed and written discovery exchanged. On February 20, 2017, the trial court granted Jamison's motion to amend the petition to add Darrell's spouse, Wendy, as an additional defendant, alleging she was an equal owner of the farming operation and also liable to Jamison. Wendy filed her answer denying Jamison's claims.

         On August 7, the Coddingtons filed their motion for summary judgment with an attached statement of undisputed facts supported by the depositions and Coddington's affidavit. Jamison filed a resistance with an attached statement of facts alleged to be in dispute, relying solely on his and Coddington's depositions. He did not submit an affidavit with his resistance.

         Following a hearing on September 5, based upon the depositions and Coddington's affidavit, the trial court found the following undisputed facts: Jamison is in the business of selling seed to farmers as well as selling chemicals and applying them to farmland. In the spring of 2014, Coddington entered into an agreement with John Trihus (Trihus) for Trihus to custom farm that growing season certain land owned by Coddington near Lineville, Iowa. Trihus was to provide all crop inputs and all labor and equipment to plant and tend the soybean crop.

         Trihus then discussed with Jamison the need for soybean seed, advising Jamison he was planting 1200 acres. Jamison ordered 1300 units of soybean seed. Trihus and Coddington at various times picked up a total of 800 units of soybean seed from Jamison's storage facility during the planting season, at $60 per unit, for a total cost of $48, 000.00. Trihus also arranged for Jamison to spray the soybean crop Trihus was custom farming on Coddington's land. The 2014 soybean crop was harvested that fall. In October, Coddington settled up with Trihus for the cost of the crop inputs Trihus had arranged to purchase from Jamison.

         Neither of the Coddingtons signed any written agreement, invoice, or other document to support what Jamison claims was their purchase of crop inputs from him. Jamison did not provide the Coddingtons any receipts, delivery tickets, or invoices. He did not discuss with either of the Coddingtons the purchase of seed, the cost of $60 per bag of seed, or the act of chemically spraying the farmland. In January 2015, Jamison telephoned Coddington to demand payment for the soybean seed, chemicals, and application. Wendy Coddington was neither an operator of the land custom farmed by Trihus in 2014, nor did she have any interaction with Jamison, Trihus, or any other person regarding crop inputs and custom farming in 2014.

         The trial court then proceeded to address the two fact issues that were disputed. The first was whether, during a discussion on July 15, 2014, Coddington told Jamison to send him an invoice for crop inputs. The court determined, "Even though this allegation is in dispute, the court finds whether or not Jamison and Coddington had this conversation is not a material fact because the Statute of Frauds applies to this matter and Jamison has produced no writing to support the existence of a contract between the parties." The court found that the seed and chemicals were "goods" covered by Iowa Code section 554.2105(1) (2016)-part of Iowa's Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)-and because the claimed contract exceeded $500, the statute of frauds in section 554.2201(1) required it to be in writing.

         The court then addressed Jamison's argument that the statute of frauds requirement of a written contract did not apply because Coddington received and accepted the seed and chemicals. See Iowa Code § 554.2201(3)(c). The court, citing Iowa Code section 554.2606, determined that such acceptance had to be by the "buyer," as defined in Iowa Code § 554.2103(1)(a). The court found:

In this case, there is no evidence in the record to support a finding that Coddington was the buyer of Jamison's goods. Coddington did not have any discussion with Jamison regarding the purchase of the crop inputs, and there is no evidence of mutual assent or agreement between the parties. Further, Jamison clearly acknowledged in his deposition that ...

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