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Kruse v. Krumwiede

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 20, 2019

TIM KRUSE and RUSSELL BRIES d/b/a KRUSE "N" BRIES CONSTRUCTION, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
DON KRUMWIEDE and MOLLY KRUMWIEDE, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Allamakee County, John J. Bauercamper, Judge.

         The plaintiffs appeal the district court's ruling that they failed to prove the defendants breached their written contract or an implied contract.

          Jeffrey E. Clements, West Union, for appellants.

          Laura J. Parrish of Miller, Pearson, Gloe, Burns, Beatty & Parrish, PLC, Decorah, for appellees.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         The plaintiffs, Tim Kruse and Russell Bries, who do business as Kruse "N" Bries Contruction, were hired by Don and Molly Krumwiede to build and finish the Krumwiede's new home. The plaintiffs filed suit against the Krumwiedes for breach of contract and promissory estoppel or unjust enrichment, maintaining they performed construction services pursuant to written and verbal contracts and the Krumwiedes failed to compensate them fully. The district court denied the plaintiffs' claim, [1] finding they failed to prove their case. On appeal, the plaintiffs claim the district court "was incorrect in the conclusions of law necessary for plaintiffs to establish their cause of action."

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The original Krumwiede home was totally destroyed by fire in September 2012. The home was insured for replacement cost, and the insurance policy also included coverage for up to one year of living expenses while the home was rebuilt. The Krumwiedes contacted Kruse "N" Bries Construction to build a new home on their acreage, relying on the insurance proceeds to finance the construction, with the cooperation of their mortgage lender.

         Later, the Krumwiedes met Kruse and showed him a picture of a home called the "Woodsman," which they had obtained from advertising materials distributed by Menards. The Krumwiedes discussed their interest in having a home similar in appearance to that home built; they did not ask that the materials and plans for this particular home be obtained from Menards or that this specific "Woodsman" home be built.

         After meeting with the Krumwiedes, Kruse obtained the materials list for the "Woodsman" model home from a nearby Menards store. It is disputed as to when Kruse actually purchased the plans for the Woodsman home from Menards, but at some point Kruse "N" Bries Construction did purchase the detailed blueprints from Menards. Kruse did not rely on the materials list obtained from Menards. Instead, he prepared his own materials list based upon the suppliers he customarily used and the home and features he proposed to provide. He then prepared a preliminary document and showed it to the Krumwiedes. The preliminary document, dated September 26, 2012, indicated a price of $175, 000 to construct and finish the home.

         Kruse revised that first document and presented a final five-page version to the Krumwiedes, which was dated October 1, 2012. Each of the five pages contained four columns, called description, quantity, price, and amount. The description column on each page included a list of items commonly associated with the building of a home, including, but not limited to, these items: cement and digging, footings, walls, floors, electrical, plumbing and heating, building materials, siding. Nothing was listed in the other three columns opposite these items. At the bottom of the last page, a line called "Total Materials and Labor" showed $175, 000 in both the price and amount column. The $175, 000 was crossed out and replaced, in handwritten numbers, with $190, 000.00 for both the price and amount column. Under the total, typewritten in all capital letters and heavy bold face type, it stated, "This is a bid not an estimate. 50% downpayment [sic] required. We are registered in State of Iowa as general contract[o]rs."

         The document did not state that it was a contract between one party as "builder" and the other as "owner" for the construction of a home. It included no other terms of payment or anything in addition to what was included in the bold face type. It was not signed by either party. No completion date was listed. No description of the plans or specifications were included. There was no reference to the Menards "Woodsman" model. The only indication of what was to be done was what one could imply from the type of products to be provided as listed in the description columns. Additionally, the document did not include a procedure to follow for the addition or subtraction of any features or materials from the house project nor the effect on the stated price for the house due to changes.

         Both parties acknowledged in their testimony that they had an agreement to build a house for $190, 000.00 and it was to look like the Menard's picture of a "Woodsman" model home.

         Construction on the house began in mid-November of 2012. The Krumwiedes made a down ...


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