from the Iowa District Court for Buchanan County, Stephanie
C. Rattenborg, District Associate Judge.
pipeline company challenges the dismissal of its small claims
appeal as untimely based on the resubmission of its notice of
appeal after a designation error in the electronic document
management system. REVERSED AND REMANDED.
S. Bubb and Nicole M. Moen of Fredrikson & Byron, PA,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.
West of Craig, Wilson & Flickinger, Independence, for
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
Leon Goedken sought damages from Alliance Pipeline, L.P.
(Alliance), for loss of crop yield based on the operation of
a natural gas pipeline across his property. A judicial
magistrate awarded $1864 in damages to Goedken. Alliance
filed a notice of appeal with the district court on the final
day provided by statute for bringing small claims appeals.
Alliance also filed a brief, mistakenly designating it as a
second notice of appeal in the electronic document management
system (EDMS). The clerk of court rejected the filings and,
on the same day, Alliance resubmitted the properly designated
brief and notice of appeal, one day beyond the statutory
deadline. The district court eventually dismissed the appeal
as untimely and declined to entertain Alliance's motion
to reconsider. In this discretionary review, Alliance seeks
to revive its small claims appeal. Finding the district court
had jurisdiction to consider Alliance's appeal, we
reverse and remand for a determination on the merits.
February 6, 2017, the magistrate entered judgment against
Alliance. The pipeline company appealed on February 27,
2017. Alliance submitted two electronic
documents-a notice of appeal and a brief-both of which
Alliance designated as notices of appeal in EDMS. Alliance
received confirmation of submission at 6:49 p.m. The
following day, February 28, at 10:05 a.m., Alliance also
received an email with the subject line "rejection
notice" from the clerk of court. The clerk rejected both
documents because of the incorrect designation of the brief
as a notice of appeal. The clerk filled in this reason for
rejection: "There should only be one notice of appeal in
each case this has 2 in this case. It charged $370.00 instead
of $185.00. The other document is a brief not a notice of
appeal." Alliance also received a separate email notice
that the previous day's filing had been rescinded.
attorney for Alliance called the clerk, who advised him to
refile both documents with the correct designation, though
the clerk did not point to any error with the actual notice
of appeal. Alliance corrected the designation and promptly
resubmitted both documents. Alliance received confirmation of
the second submission at 10:10 a.m., February 28, 2017. The
clerk accepted the documents and dated them with an
electronic file stamp of February 28. That same day, the
chief judge of the First Judicial District issued an order
directing the small claims appeal to proceed.
March 2017, the parties filed merits briefs in the district
court. In supporting the magistrate's decision, Goedken
did not contest the timeliness of the appeal. In June 2017,
the district court, on its own motion, questioned the
timeliness of the small claims appeal. The court affirmed the
magistrate's judgment-finding it had no jurisdiction
because the notice of appeal was filed one day late.
filed a "Motion to Reconsider or Amend Findings under
Iowa Court Rule 1.904" explaining the situation with the
EDMS designation. In its order, the court faulted Alliance
for not raising the EDMS issue in its appeal briefing and
noted "[t]here is no provision for a Motion for
Reconsideration in small claim. Defendant's Motion for
Reconsideration is denied due to lack of jurisdiction."
Alliance successfully sought discretionary review from our
supreme court. Goedken waived the filing of an appellee's
Scope and Standards of Review
this case presents a question of the district court's
jurisdiction to consider the small claims appeal, our review
is for legal error. See Root v. Toney, 841 N.W.2d
83, 86 (Iowa 2013). We are not bound by the district
court's conclusions of law, but we defer to its findings
of fact unless they are not supported by substantial
evidence. Jacobs v. Iowa Dep't of Transp., 887
N.W.2d 590, 593 (Iowa 2016). "[W]e try to ...