SOUTHERN IOWA BIN BUILDERS, LLC d/b/a SOUTHERN IOWA BIN COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
STEVEN JEROME SIEREN, Defendant-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Keokuk County, Lucy J. Gamon
(summary judgment ruling) and Joel D. Yates (trial), Judges.
Sieren appeals from a judgment entered against him in this
suit by Southern Iowa Bin Builders, LLC to recover payment on
a dishonored check. AFFIRMED.
J. Mallory of Brick Gentry, PC, West Des Moines, for
Matthew B. Moore of The Law Offices of Matthew B. Moore,
PLLC, Oskaloosa, for appellee.
by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.
DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
district court found in favor of Southern Iowa Bin Builders,
LLC (Bin Builders) in this action to recover payment on a
dishonored check against Steven Sieren. Sieren appeals,
contending the check was not dishonored because Bin Builders
first breached a "hold check" agreement by cashing
the check without Sieren's approval. He also asserts the
court erred in rejecting his counterclaims against Bin
Builders for breach of contract, negligent construction, and
conversion. Because we give weight to the court's
credibility assessments and the trial court's findings
are supported by substantial evidence, we affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
Builders is a single-member limited liability company, and
Jason Van Donselaar is its president and sole member. Bin
Builders, through Van Donselaar, entered into an oral
agreement with Sieren for the installation of two additional
grain bins and related other work regarding existing grain
bins at Sieren's property known as Sutton Farm. Sieren
agreed to Bin Builders's bid of June 5, 2014, which
estimated over $180, 000 for materials and labor.
Sieren's father, Jerome Sieren, gave Bin Builders $98,
000 on June 20, 2014, and Bin Builders began its work on the
project. Sieren and his father often worked on the Sutton
Farm site with Van Donselaar. At Sieren's request, Bin
Builders provided additional work and materials not included
in the original bid disassembling and re-erecting a bin on
Sutton Farm that Sieren had on another property (Blakesburg).
In late October, Van Donselaar spoke with Sieren about having
to "get settled up, caught up with new material coming
in that was paid for by [Bin Builders], that we needed to get
together on that and from that day forward he disappeared.
Never seen him again."
shortly after November 19, 2014, Van Donselaar went to
Sieren's shop, but he was not there. Van Donselaar left
invoices for work completed and materials Bin Builders had
paid for to date, which invoices totaled $164, 139.32 with a
balance due of $66, 139.32. Van Donselaar informed Sieren
that Bin Builders was unable to do any further work on the
grain bin project unless and until additional payments were
made by Sieren to Bin Builders.
was still harvesting his crop in December 2014. On December
28, Van Donselaar asked Sieren via text message, "Did
you get financing figured out with the bank." On January
7, 2015, Sieren responded, "still got 2 meet with
banker?" On January 8, Van Donselaar sent a text,
"I would like to come down tomorrow to get a check
I'm going to be in your neighborhood." At about 7:00
a.m. on January 9, Sieren responded, "What time are u
going to be down?"
Donselaar arrived at Sieren's home on the morning of
January 9 to discuss the need for additional payment from
Sieren and moving forward on the project. They discussed the
invoices and agreed to some adjustments, after which Sieren
gave Bin Builders a signed and dated check for $58, 057.
However, Sieren informed Bin Builders not to cash the check
until later, and Van Donselaar agreed to do so.
January 13, Van Donselaar sent a text, "I'm going to
the bank today can I run that check through." Sieren
sent a text, "I have appoint at 2pm today with
a.m. on January 15, Van Donselaar sent a text to Sieren,
"On my way." Van Donselaar went to the bank and,
after consulting with a banker who checked to see if there
were sufficient funds in Sieren's account, Van Donselaar
deposited the January 9th check. At 10:44 a.m., Sieren sent
at text to Van Donselaar, "What is ur 20." Van
Donselaar responded, "I was there a couple hours ago you
need the clamps for the back side. The are typically wire to
the flighting but i did t see them do you know where they are
January 21, 2015, Sieren stopped payment on the check. He did
not inform Bin Builders.
January 23, Van Donselaar was informed by his bank that he
was overdrawn by $40, 000 and that payment had been stopped
on Sieren's check. On January 27, Van Donselaar sent
Sieren two texts, "Do you have the money yet?" And,
"I need to go too ottumwa today or tomorrow just
wondering if we meet up then to get this taken care of."
On Monday, February 2, he sent Sieren two more texts,
"Is it going to work this morning" and "Even
just 24-25K for today to cover me." Sieren responded,
"will be thursday before i can get some money?"
Thursday February 5, Van Donselaar sent these texts:
"Tomorrow morning work for you too get together for a
check." An hour later, "What time works for
you." Sieren responded, "Didn't get my corn
hauled? Sorry no money?"
Builders filed suit against Sieren for the dishonored check.
After a two-day trial to the district court, the court
concluded "there is no question that the check in the
amount of $58, 057.00 is a fully integrated written
contract" and that, even accepting a
"hold-check" agreement, Bin Builders "acted
reasonably and did not violate any hold-check
agreement." The court found:
[Bin Builders] waited four days and reached out via text
message to [Sieren] as to whether [Bin Builders] could now
cash the check. [Sieren] not only did not reply to the text
message, but has provided no rationale as to why he did not
respond. [Bin Builders] then waited two extra days and
received both the advice of his banker and verification that
there were adequate funds in the account prior to cashing
said check. Additionally, a critical factor in this analysis
is that the bulk of the money in question had to do with
services already performed. [Sieren] cannot claim that if he
never spoke to [Bin Builders] again, then [Bin Builders] had
no right or authority at any time to cash the check in
question. [Sieren] wanted to sleep on it, and he did. [Bin
Builders] was able to verify that [Sieren] did, in fact, have
the monies to cover the check.
[Bin Builders] waited six days prior to cashing the check.
[Sieren]'s hold-check agreement contained no definite end
date. Again, the check in question was for invoices for work
that had already been performed by [Bin Builders] and not
solely for work to be performed in the future. It would make
no sense to require [Bin Builders] to wait a lengthy and/or
indefinite period of time before cashing the check for work
which had already been performed. Again, [Bin Builders] did
attempt to "speak" with [Sieren] and [Sieren], of
his own volition, failed to respond. Not only do we have an
integrated written contract, but the court also concludes
that [Bin Builders] did not breach any hold-check agreement.
[Sieren] now claims that [Bin Builders]'s actions damaged
him and he is entitled to an offset. It is accurate to say
that [Sieren]'s claims of damages changed, evolved, and
were modified over the course of this case. [Sieren]'s
credibility took a major hit when he acknowledged on
cross-examination that his damage claims for electricity
were, in fact, frivolous. This is just one example of
[Sieren] lacking credible evidence on his claim for damages.
Simply stated, [Sieren] failed to meet his burden of proof as
to damages caused by [Bin Builders], and the court also notes
that [Sieren] failed to present any type of expert testimony
or any testimony other than his own which would verify his
was entered in favor of Bin Builders in the amount of the
check plus interest and $12, 000 for attorney fees.
now appeals. He does not challenge the law applied by the
district court. But, he does challenge the court's
findings and its application of law to the facts.
Scope and ...