review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
from the Iowa District Court for Jefferson County, Myron L.
appeal from a judgment entered by the district court
following a jury verdict. DECISION OF COURT OF
APPEALS AFFIRMED IN PART AND VACATED IN PART; DISTRICT COURT
Gardner of Denefe, Gardner & Zingg, P.C., Ottumwa, for
E. Ballard and Abigail L. Brown of Leff Law Firm, L.L.P.,
Iowa City, for appellees.
appeal, we primarily consider whether a judgment for civil
conspiracy was properly modified by the district court
following a jury trial. The court of appeals found the jury
instruction pertaining to the conspiracy did not permit
judgment to be modified. On our review, we affirm and adopt
the opinion of the court of appeals except on the issue of
the conspiracy. We affirm the judgment of the district court.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
Dean and Carol Anderson own and operate Anderson Tooling,
Inc. (ATI). The company offers many services, including
rigging. Rigging is the movement of heavy machinery from one
location to another. In 2005, Dean hired his brother, Jeffrey
Anderson (Jeff), to work as the company's general manager
and chief financial officer. He also hired Jeff's wife,
Lori, as ATI's bookkeeper.
couples met to discuss the terms of employment, but never
completed a formal employment contract. Instead, Dean and
Jeff made handwritten notes about the details discussed at
the meeting. Generally, both sets of notes provided for
Jeff's base salary at $52, 000, with a percentage of
"profit" of twenty percent up to $200, 000 and
thirty percent over $200, 000. Neither set of notes defined
the word "profit." Jeff claims his notes represent
a valid employment contract because both brothers initialed
the document. Dean denies having initialed it.
lack of specificity in the agreement became the basis of a
salary dispute between the brothers. In 2011, Jeff requested
payments of his deferred compensation pursuant to the
percentage split in the employment agreement. Dean and Carol
denied the existence of a written agreement and refused to
pay Jeff. They also claimed their definition of profit did
not align with Jeff's.
employed at ATI, Jeff formed an independent company named
Fabrication & Construction Services Inc. (FabCon).
FabCon's original purpose was to complete repair work on
the building where ATI was located following flood damage.
After this project, FabCon continued to operate and began
providing rigging services, in competition with ATI. Upon
learning of FabCon's rigging operations, Dean fired Jeff
and Lori from ATI.
asserts he was terminated due to his request for payment of
the deferred compensation. He commenced an action against
Dean, Carol, and ATI alleging a violation of the Iowa Wage
Payment Collection Law (IWPCL), breach of contract, tortious
discharge, and interference with contractual relationships.
Carol, and ATI filed a number of counterclaims. They filed a
claim against Jeff for conversion, intentional interference
with contracts, interference with a prospective business
advantage, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of
trade secrets. Dean and Carol claimed Jeff used ATI's
customer list and rate information to FabCon's benefit.
They also claimed Jeff was stealing and mismanaging ATI
sued Lori for breaching her fiduciary duty, claiming she
diverted its funds to FabCon, Jeff, and herself.
Additionally, ATI brought a claim against Lori and FabCon for
conversion, intentional interference with contracts,
interference with prospective business advantage, and
conspiracy. These cases were consolidated for trial.
District Court Proceedings.
13, 2015, these matters proceeded to a jury trial. After
nearly two weeks of testimony, the jury was given two verdict
forms with sixty-eight interrogatories and began
deliberation. The first verdict form related to Jeff's
claims against Dean, Carol, and ATI. The second verdict form
related to the counterclaims against Jeff, Lori, and FabCon.
On Jeff's claims, the jury concluded ATI did not violate
the IWPCL and did not owe Jeff unpaid profit sharing or
accrued vacation. The jury found no employment contract
existed, thus ATI did not breach or intentionally interfere
with Jeff's contract. It also concluded Dean and Carol
did not act improperly as the company's directors.
jury did find that Jeff was an ATI employee and wrongfully
discharged for pursing unpaid wages. It awarded him $89,
387.01 in lost wages, $5000 for emotional distress, and $52,
000 in punitive damages.
and Carol's claims, the jury found Jeff breached his
fiduciary duty and awarded them $436, 255.18 in damages.
Moreover, it concluded Jeff intentionally and improperly
interfered with ATI's prospective business relationships,
awarding $336, 072.54 in damages. Damages against Jeff
totaled $772, 297.72. The district court entered judgments in
portion of the verdict form regarding the participation of
Jeff, Lori, and FabCon in a conspiracy to harm ATI provided,
Q. Did Jeffery Anderson commit any of the wrongs of
conversion, interference with a prospective business
advantage, breach of fiduciary duty, or ...