from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County,
Jeffrey L. Larson, Judge.
Richard Coberly appeals from the grant of summary judgment in
favor of the appellees.
J. McGinn of McGinn, Springer & Noethe, P.L.C., Council
Bluffs, for appellant.
Mez, Council Bluffs, for appellees.
Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Mullins, JJ.
Coberly appeals from the grant of summary judgment in favor
of Carolyn Mils and Lisa Green after the district court found
his petition was barred by claim preclusion. Because Richard
did not assert a defense that his debt was paid in the prior
small claims action, we agree with the district court that
his repackaged claim of fraud and conversion of funds is
barred by claim preclusion. Summary judgment was appropriate,
and we therefore affirm.
to Richard's petition, he made monthly payments to Green
to live at her residence and to purchase a truck from her.
When he began missing payments, Mils, Green's mother,
told Barbara Coberly, Richard's mother, about the
delinquency, asserting Green needed the money to pay her real
estate taxes. On September 8, 2015, Barbara sent a $1500
check to Mils to cover the late payments without
Richard's knowledge. On September 23, Green sued Richard
for replevin and past-due rent in separate small claims
actions. The matters proceeded to trial, where no one
mentioned Barbara's $1500 check to Mils. The court
entered judgments in favor of Green for $5000 and $1200, and
Richard began making payments on the judgment. In late
December 2016, Richard learned of Barbara's payment to
Mils. At some point, Green claimed Richard had defaulted and
began garnishment proceedings. On April 26, 2017, Richard
filed the petition here claiming that Green and Mils acted
fraudulently, that Green "used the judicial process to
garnish excessive amounts from [his] account," and that
he is entitled to a $1500 credit against his earlier
judgments due to Barbara's check to Mils. The district
court found his claim was precluded by the earlier small
claims action and granted summary judgment in favor of Green
and Mils. Richard appeals.
review a grant of summary judgment for correction of errors
at law. Pavone v. Kirke, 807 N.W.2d 828, 832 (Iowa
2011). "If there is no genuine issue of material fact
after a review of the entire record, summary judgment is
appropriate." Id. "[W]e examine the record
in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party to determine
if the moving party has met its burden" of establishing
the absence of any genuine issues of material fact.
To establish claim preclusion a party must show: (1) the
parties in the first and second action are the same parties
or parties in privity, (2)there was a final judgment on the
merits in the first action, and (3)the claim in the second
suit could have been fully and fairly adjudicated in the
prior case (i.e., both suits involve the same cause of
Id. at 836.
stated in his petition, Richard's underlying claim is
whether he "is entitled to conversion relief in this
matter and should be given a credit for the [$1500] paid by
Barbara Coberly against his past due rent and truck
payment." Essentially, he argues the amounts of the
small claims judgments are incorrect. While the small claims
files are not included in this record on appeal, there is no
dispute that Richard failed to make the rent and truck
payments to Green. A hand-written letter dated May 3, 2017,
from Mils to Barbara states: "Here is the money you sent
me to help [Green] keep her house out of foreclosure, after
Richard cheated her out of Rent and took off with her truck.
Thank you! The court just turned the money over to [Green]
Thursday. Thanks Again. It really helped." A check for
$1500 from Mils to Barbara was enclosed but returned as
rejected by Barbara. In this litigation, Richard claims
"fraud" in that the money should have been applied
to his outstanding debt to Green, which would have been a
defense to the small claims actions. However, Richard has
presented no facts or legal argument to support the idea that
money sent from his mother, Barbara, to Green's mother,
Mils, so Green could pay her real estate taxes should
exonerate his obligation to make his payments to Green. The
small claims judgments were correctly entered against him.
asserts he should not be precluded from pursuing this action
because the parties are not the same as the small claims
action due to the addition of Mils. See id. However,
both actions involved Richard's obligation to pay Green.
He asserted no defense to that in the small claims actions,
and his belated information as to money exchanged between
Barbara and Mils does not allow him to relitigate his debt to
Green. While Richard also questions the adequacy of
procedures available to him in small claims court, we agree
with the district court that both the small claims action and
this action "involve the same cause of action."
See id.; see also Bagley v. Hughes A. Bagley,
Inc., 465 N.W.2d 551, 554 (Iowa Ct. App. 1990)
("[T]he adjudication of a claim in small claims court
can have a preclusive effect within the regular jurisdiction
of the district court.").
Richard argues the sparse record cannot support summary
judgment. Summary judgment is based on "the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any." Iowa R.
Civ. P. 1.981(3). As explained above, Richard's petition,
Mils's letter, and Barbara's affidavit are sufficient
for the appellees to show no genuine issue of material fact
exists regarding claim preclusion. See id.
Therefore, we ...