from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lawrence P.
consolidated appeal, we consider Thunder & Lightning,
Inc.'s direct appeals of the order dismissing its
trespass claims and a certiorari action concerning sanctions
awarded against Thunder & Lightning and its attorney.
Cornelius S. Qualley of Qualley Law, P.L.C., Des Moines, for
J. Statler of Statler Law, PLLC, Des Moines, for appellee.
by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.
appeal consolidates Thunder & Lightning, Inc.'s
direct appeal of the order dismissing its trespass claims
against the defendants and a certiorari action concerning an
order awarding sanctions against Thunder & Lightning and
its attorney for violating Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure
1.413. Because the defendants entered the leased premises
without consent, Thunder & Lightning proved the
defendants committed trespass. Accordingly, we reverse the
dismissal of its claims for trespass and conspiracy to commit
trespass and remand to the district court to determine the
amount of Thunder & Lightning's damages. Because the
district court did not abuse its discretion in sanctioning
Thunder & Lightning and its attorney for violating rule
1.413 by failing to conduct a reasonable inquiry before
initiating a contempt action, we annul the writ of
Background Facts and Proceedings.
& Lightning leased commercial space from 435 Grand Avenue
LLC, d/b/a 435 E. Grand Ave., LLC (435 Grand) for a five-year
term beginning August 1, 2011, and ending July 31,
2016. Thunder & Lightning operated the
premises as the Lime Lounge. The parties' relationship
soured and can be described as contentious, though another
apt descriptor would be litigious. Three years into the
lease, 435 Grand filed a petition alleging Thunder &
Lightning breached the lease by failing to pay property
taxes, and Thunder & Lightning counterclaimed for lack of
notice of default, libel, and reimbursement for remodeling
costs. Although the parties later dismissed the claims, the
litigation did not end there.
& Lightning initiated the present action against 435
Grand in September 2015. It alleged multiple claims of breach
of contract against 435 Grand, in addition to a claim of
libel. Thunder & Lightning also sought specific
performance of a lease provision that provided it with an
exclusive option to purchase the real estate during the first
forty-eight months of the lease. Following events that
occurred in January 2016, Thunder & Lightning later
amended the petition to add 435 Grand's principal,
Santokh Nagra, and two of its attorneys, Peter Sand and Loyd
Ogle, as parties. It also added claims of breach of covenant
of quiet enjoyment, trespass (against Nagra, Sand, and Ogle),
civil conspiracy to commit trespass (against Nagra, Sand, and
Ogle), fraudulent misrepresentation, and fraudulent
nondisclosure. The district court severed the claims of
trespass and civil conspiracy to commit trespass for a
trespass claims were tried to the court in February 2017. On
the last day of trial, Thunder & Lightning filed a motion
for rule to show cause, alleging 435 Grand was in contempt of
a court order relating to the first trial on the bulk of its
claims. In an April 2017 order, the district court dismissed
both trespass claims and denied Thunder & Lightning's
motion for rule to show cause. On its own initiative, the
court found Thunder & Lightning and its attorney violated
Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.413 in filing the motion for
rule to show cause and allowed the defendants ten days to
suggest an appropriate sanction. In a May 2017 order, the
court assessed a total of $1120 in sanctions jointly and
severally against Thunder & Lightning and its attorney,
Cornelius Qualley (Qualley), to compensate the defendants for
the attorney fees expended in defending the motion for rule
to show cause.
& Lightning appealed the dismissal of its trespass claims
and the order awarding sanctions. The Iowa Supreme Court
consolidated the appeals and transferred the matter to this
court. Additional facts will be discussed below.
& Lightning first appeals the dismissal of its claims for
trespass and civil conspiracy to commit
trespass. It argues the district court erred in
failing to find the defendants committed trespass by entering
and remaining upon the leased property without its consent.
Scope and Standard of Review.
review is for correction of errors at law. See Iowa
R. App. P. 6.907. The trial court's fact findings are
binding upon us if supported by substantial evidence.
See Iowa R. App. 6.904(3)(a). "Substantial
evidence supports a factual finding when the finding 'may
be reasonably inferred from the evidence
presented.'" Hutchison v. Shull, 878 N.W.2d
221, 229-30 (Iowa 2016) (quoting Vaughan v. Must,
Inc., 542 N.W.2d 533, 538 (Iowa 1996)).
When reviewing a claim that substantial evidence does not
support a district court finding, we are required to view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment and
liberally construe the court's findings to uphold, rather
than defeat, the result reached. Evidence supporting a
district court finding is not insubstantial merely because we
may draw a different conclusion from it. The crucial question
in determining whether substantial evidence supports a
district court finding is not whether the evidence would
support a different finding, but whether the evidence
supports the finding actually made.
Id. at 230 (citations omitted).
is subject to liability to another for trespass, irrespective
of whether he thereby causes harm to any legally protected
interest of the other, if he intentionally . . . enters land
in the possession of the other . . . ." Robert's
River Rides, Inc. v. Steamboat Dev. Corp., 520 N.W.2d
294, 301 (Iowa 1994) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts
§ 158 (1964)), abrogated on other grounds by Barreca
v. Nickolas, 683 N.W.2d 111 (Iowa 2004). Where there is
consent to enter, either express or implied, there can be no
trespass. See Alexander v. Med. Assocs. Clinic, 646
N.W.2d 74, 76 (Iowa 2002) ("A 'trespasser' is
one who has no legal right to be upon another's land and
enters the land without the express or implied consent of the
owner."); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 167.
Consent occurs "where the plaintiff's conduct
reasonably led the defendant to believe the defendant had
authority for the actions taken with regard to the
property." Larson v. Great W. Cas. Co., 482