from the Iowa District Court for Jackson County, Stuart P.
Estate of Wilma Poll appeals following a jury trial finding
in favor of defendant Kenneth Poll.
Christine Frederick and Cynthia Z. Taylor of Zamora Taylor
Woods & Frederick, Davenport, for appellant.
Matthew L. Noel (until withdrawal) and Victoria D. Noel of
The Noel Law Firm, Clinton, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Doyle, JJ.
Gerardy, the conservator for Wilma Poll, brought suit against
Kenneth Poll concerning a real estate transaction between
Kenneth and Wilma. Patricia alleged Kenneth unduly influenced
Wilma to enter into the agreement and that Wilma was not
competent to enter into the transaction. The jury found in
favor of Kenneth, and the district court denied
Patricia's posttrial motions. Patricia appealed the jury
verdict and various rulings by the district court. The Estate
of Wilma Poll was substituted as the plaintiff/appellant
after Wilma passed away. Upon our review, we affirm the jury
verdict and the district court's rulings.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
Poll was born in 1918. In September 2012, Wilma executed a
power of attorney form appointing her son, Kenneth Poll, as
her attorney in fact. On September 8, 2015,
ninety-seven-year-old Wilma entered into a real estate
contract with Kenneth to sell Kenneth her forty-acre farm for
$24, 000. The purchase price was to be paid in installments.
Eight days later, Wilma was examined by her regular
physician, Dr. Jerald Bybee, to ascertain her mental status
or competency. Using a test called the "mini mental
status evaluation," Dr. Bybee asked Wilma to perform a
number of tests, including answering what the exact date was
and the solution to relatively simple arithmetic problems.
Out of a possible score of thirty points, Wilma scored twenty
points. Dr. Bybee opined Wilma's score indicated her
memory was on the line between mildly and moderately
impaired. Wilma thought it was 2012 when it was 2015. Wilma
did not recall the amount of money in question in the real
estate contract with Kenneth. Ultimately, Dr. Bybee opined
that Wilma's mental capacity at that time-and the eight
days before it-was such that she did not have the mental
capacity to understand the contract and was not capable of
entering into a contract voluntarily, freely, and
April 2016, Wilma's daughter, Patricia Gerardy, was
appointed guardian and conservator of Wilma. In July 2016,
Gerardy, acting as Wilma's conservator, filed a suit
against Kenneth. Patricia alleged Kenneth, while acting as
Wilma's attorney in fact, unduly influenced Wilma to sell
her farm to Kenneth at an amount well below market value.
Patricia also asserted the real estate contract should be set
aside or deemed void because Wilma was not competent to enter
into a contract with Kenneth. Kenneth denied the allegations.
August 2017, Patricia filed her list of expected trial
exhibits, which included one titled "Judgment Entry in
Case No. SCSC018588 and captioned Joshua William Poll v.
Kenneth William Poll and filed on May 11, 2015." In that
case, Kenneth's nephew, Joshua, alleged Kenneth failed to
properly care for Joshua's bull as agreed. Following a
small claims trial, the magistrate entered judgment in favor
of Joshua. Therein, the court made express findings that
Kenneth was not credible and explained its reasons for so
to trial, Kenneth filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude
the judgment entry from evidence, arguing it was irrelevant.
Patricia resisted, arguing the judgment entry was relevant
"as it speaks directly to [Kenneth's] credibility,
especially while testifying under oath." The court took
the matter up before trial and ruled the judgment entry was
irrelevant in Patricia's case-in-chief as a matter of
law, but the exhibit could be introduced if Kenneth testified
to test his credibility.
trial, Patricia's attorney called Kenneth as an adverse
witness, and during the examination, the following exchange
Q. Now, Mr. Poll, you've said that you believe that you
are an honest person?
Q. And would you say that you are always honest?
Q. You've testified in court before; correct?
Q. And just like today, did you raise your hand and swear to
tell the truth?
Q. Were one of those testimonies in a case involving Joshua
Q. And was the ruling in that case filed on May 11, 2015?
A. Around that.
Q. Okay. Isn't it true, Mr. Poll, that the judge
determined that your ...