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Denver Sunset Nursing Home v. City of Denver

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 23, 2019

DENVER SUNSET NURSING HOME, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF DENVER, IOWA, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Bremer County, Christopher C. Foy, Judge.

         Denver Sunset Nursing Home appeals the district court's order on the parties' competing motions for summary judgment. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          David J. Dutton and Erich D. Priebe of Dutton, Braun, Staack & Hellman, P.L.C., Waterloo, for appellant.

          Randall H. Stefani and Maria E. Brownell of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Des Moines, for appellee. Timothy J. Whipple, Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Ankeny, for amicus curiae.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Vogel, S.J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         We must decide whether an entity that was overcharged for electric service was limited to recovering overcharges for a period within five years of its lawsuit.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The City of Denver "owns and operates its municipal electric utility, which serves both commercial and residential customers within the City of Denver, Iowa." Denver Sunset Nursing Home is a long-term care facility. From 1985 to 2014, the City unknowingly overcharged Denver Sunset for its electricity usage. Upon learning of the overcharges, the City immediately curtailed them. The overcharges between 1985 and 2014 totaled $996, 194.03, including interest.

         In 2016, Denver Sunset filed a petition for declaratory judgment against the City and sought "full reimbursement" for the overcharges. The City moved for summary judgment, "request[ing] an order limiting the time period for recovery for alleged overcharges to five years." Denver Sunset countered with its own motion for summary judgment. It sought an order in its favor "on the issue of the City's liability."

         The district court partially granted both motions. The court concluded, "[T]he outcome of this case is governed by Iowa Code section 614.1(4) [(2016)], the statute of limitations for claims based on unwritten contracts and for other actions. Such claims and actions must be brought within five years after their causes accrue." The court further concluded, "Section 614.1(4) limits what [Denver Sunset] can recover to the overcharges it paid within five years of December 20, 2016, when it commenced this action." The court entered judgment in favor of Denver Sunset for $47, 917.96.[1]

         Denver Sunset filed a motion for enlarged findings seeking application of the discovery rule. The court denied the motion. This appeal followed.

         II. Analysis

         Denver Sunset argues "the district court erred in awarding only partial judgment . . . for over 28 years of excessive billing." In its view, its "claim against the City-whether sounding in contract or in unjust enrichment-is subject to the ...


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