Here is a sampling of significant appellate cases handled by the attorneys at The Weinhardt Law Firm.
Carter, et al. v. Carter, 957 N.W.2d 623 (Iowa 2021). The Firm represented Bill Carter and the Estate of his late wife, Shirley Carter, in a high-profile wrongful death case against their son, Jason Carter. Shirley was the victim of a gunshot homicide in her rural Marion County farmhouse in 2015. Frustrated with the progress of the law enforcement investigation, Bill brought a civil wrongful death claim against Jason to obtain some measure of justice for his late wife. The Firm tried the case to a jury in 2017. The jury agreed that Jason was responsible for Shirley’s death and awarded one of the largest punitive damages verdicts in Iowa history. After years of post-judgment wrangling between the parties, the Iowa Supreme Court decisively and completely affirmed the verdict. A video of the oral argument can be found here.
State of Iowa v. Buelow, 951 N.W.2d 879 (Iowa 2020) Fontae Buelow was convicted in Dubuque County of Second Degree Murder in the alleged stabbing death of his girlfriend. Mr. Buelow asserted his innocence and said it was a suicide. The Firm did not try the original case but was retained by Mr. Buelow’s family to take the case on appeal. The Iowa Court of Appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court each unanimously reversed the conviction. The Iowa Supreme Court agreed with the Firm’s argument that evidence of the decedent’s mental health problems and documented suicidal behaviors was wrongly excluded as evidence. The case was widely covered by the media. The Des Moines Register covered the case here.
Shcharansky, et al. v. Schapiro, et al, 842 N.W.2d 387 (Iowa Ct. App. 2013); 905 N.W.2d 579 (Iowa 2017); 2020 WL 2487620 (Iowa Ct. App 2020): The Firm’s clients discharged a substantial debt to a bank that co-owners of their business had guaranteed along with them. Represented by another firm, the clients sued the co-owners to collect their fair share of the guarantee, but they lost on summary judgment. The clients retained Mark Weinhardt and Danielle Shelton, who obtained a reversal of the summary judgment in the Iowa Court of Appeals. Mark and Danielle then tried some of the claims in the case to a judge who ruled against the Firm’s clients. Mark and Danielle appealed all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court, which reversed and said the Firm’s clients were entitled to their fair share, subject to potential counterclaims of the defendants. Mark and Danielle then won a jury trial in which they defeated those counterclaims, and they successfully defended that win in yet a third appeal, this one before the Iowa Court of Appeals.
J & R Transportation, Inc. v. Navistar, Inc. et al., 2020 WL 821947 (Iowa Ct. App. 2020): The truck manufacturer Navistar defended against claims of breach of warranty, among others, in the Iowa version of nationwide litigation over allegedly defective truck engines. After Navistar won summary judgment in the district court, the company retained Mark Weinhardt and Danielle Shelton to defend that judgment on appeal. Working with Navistar’s national counsel, Mark and Danielle did substantially all of the briefing on the appeal which resulted in affirmance of the summary judgment and dismissal of the claim against the Firm’s client.
S & A 786, LLC d/b/a Downtown Pantry v. City of Des Moines Zoning Board of Adjustment (Iowa Court of Appeals 2019): David Fautsch represented a convenience store in downtown Des Moines against the Zoning Board, which stripped the store of its conditional use permit to sell alcohol. In what amounted to bet-the-company litigation for a family-owned business, the Court of Appeals agreed with David that substantial evidence did not support the Zoning Board’s decision to revoke the conditional use permit.
National Surety Corp. v. Westlake Investments, LLC, 880 N.W.2d 724 (Iowa 2016) Todd Lantz represented the owners of a large apartment complex in hotly contested litigation concerning insurance coverage for a judgment arising from a prior defective construction lawsuit. Before the district court, Todd successfully argued over a half-dozen dispositive motions and served as lead in counsel in a three-week jury trial. The jury awarded $12,439,500 in damages, which was the full amount Todd requested in his closing argument. On appeal, Todd argued the case to the Iowa Court of Appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court. Both courts affirmed the jury verdict in its entirety and awarded additional interest to the property owner.
State of Iowa v. John Hoyman, 863 N.W.2d 1 (Iowa 2015): Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz defended former Indianola City Attourney John Hoyman against felony charges of theft, fraudulent practices, and felonious misconduct in office arising from alleged irregularities in Mr. Hoyman's billing to the City for legal services. Following a jury trial, Mr. Hoyman was acquitted on the theft and felonious misconduct charges but convicted on the fraudulent practices charge. Mark and Todd argued to the Iowa Supreme Court that the district court erred in its instructions to the jury in two respects. The Supreme Court agreed, notably holding for the first time that to be guilty of fraudulent practices by submitting false documents, the defendant must intend to deceive the recipient of documents and not merely know that the documents are incorrect. Mark and Todd further argued to the Supreme Court that the district court should have recused itself based upon the judge's spouse's close friendship with the prosecutor. While not ruling on that challenge on the merits, the court directed that a different district judge hear the case on remand.
Trustees of Iowa Laborers District Council Health and Welfare Trust, et al. v. Ankeny Community School District, et al. 860 N.W.2d 923 (Iowa Ct. App. 2014): Amid complex litigation concerning the construction of two new public schools in Ankeny, Iowa, the Firm represented a supplier of construction materials that was in litigation with a masonry contractor. The district court, following a bench trial, awarded the masonry contractor over $2 million in direct and consequential damages on its claim that the Firm’s client supplied defective concrete blocks. The district court further denied the supplier’s claim against the contractor for nonpayment for the materials. Mark Weinhardt and Danielle Shelton represented the supplier in an appeal of those rulings before the Iowa Court of Appeals and obtained reversals in their client’s favor on the nonpayment claim and on a substantial portion of the damages claim. While an application for further review to the Iowa Supreme Court was pending, the parties settled the remainder of the dispute.
The Printer, Inc. v. Benskin Bros, Inc., 847 N.W.2d 612 (Iowa Ct. App. 2014): Mark Weinhardt and Danielle Shelton were brought in as appellate counsel to represent a large printing and marketing company, which had been found by a district court liable to pay six-figure sums for repair and replacement costs on the building that it leased for its business. On appeal, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed the district court in its entirety and held that the landlord, not the Firm’s client, was obligated under the lease to pay for the repair and replacement costs.
Ostrem v. PrideCo Secure Loan Fund, LP, 841 N.W.2d 882 (Iowa 2014): Mark Weinhardt represented a retired Iowa businessman in a lawsuit challenging an allegedly fraudulent “no cost life insurance” scheme. The lender seeking to collect money from the Firm’s client claimed it was not subject to the jurisdiction of an Iowa court. The Firm’s client dealt originally with a different company that later sold the challenged debt to the current defendant. The district court dismissed the lawsuit and the Firm appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. Recognizing that personal jurisdiction in cases of contractual assignment like this one are a novel question under Iowa law, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed with the Firm’s position, reversed the district court, and held that the replacement creditor was subject to being sued in Iowa based on its contacts with the State.
Sovereign Bank v. Varner, et al., 829 N.W.2d 590 (Iowa Ct. App. 2013): Todd Lantz represented a financial institution in a mortgage foreclosure action involving allegations of a defective notarization on the mortgage documents. Todd obtained a favorable summary judgment ruling for his client and successfully defended that judgment on appeal.
Spears v. Com Link, Inc., et al., 837 N.W.2d 680 (Iowa Ct. App. 2013): Mark Weinhardt obtained summary judgment on behalf of the accounting firm then known as RSM McGladrey, Inc. He then successfully defended that judgment in an appeal. The plaintiff, a shareholder of a former RSM McGladrey client, had sued alleging numerous business torts including breach of contract, misrepresentation, shareholder oppression, securities violations, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, and civil conspiracy. The district court granted RSM McGladrey summary judgment on all of the plaintiff’s claims, and the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed.
Bottoms v. Stapleton, 706 N.W.2d 411 (Iowa 2005): Mark Weinhardt represented two Iowa businesses and their majority owner in a dispute in the heavy equipment industry. A minority owner of one of the businesses sued Mark's clients alleging breach of fiduciary duty and other claims. The clients counterclaimed and impleaded the plaintiff's own heavy equipment company alleging that the plaintiff pirated business relationships and employees from the clients. Before the Iowa Supreme Court, Mark successfully argued an interlocutory appeal of a district court order disqualifying a law firm. In a case of first impression in Iowa, the Iowa Supreme Court held that there was no conflict of interest in the same law firm representing both a closely held company and its majority owner in litigation against the minority owner.
United States v. Gammage, 580 F.3d 777 (8th Cir. 2009): Mark Weinhardt successfully appealed the sentence of a man convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm following a domestic violence conviction. Based upon his criminal record from decades ago in Mississippi, the district court sentenced Mr. Gammage to a mandatory minimum 15 years in prison. Mark argued on appeal that the sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act did not apply, and the Eighth Circuit agreed. On resentencing, Mr. Gammage received a sentence of time served.
Midwest Oilseeds, Inc. v. Limagrain Genetics Corp., 385 F.3d 705 (8th Cir. 2004): Along with other counsel, Danielle Shelton helped her client, Midwest Oilseeds, recover over $40 million in a breach of contract action. This hard-fought case raised intricate factual, procedural, and legal issues. Before trial, the federal district court ruled in favor of Midwest Oilseeds on summary judgment, agreeing with Midwest Oilseeds’ interpretation of the contracts. The jury went on to find a breach of those contracts and awarded Midwest Oilseeds over $40 million pursuant to a liquidated damages provision. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court on all grounds.
Lincoln Nat’l Life Ins. Co. v. Payne, 374 F.3d 672 (8th Cir. 2004): Danielle Shelton assisted lead counsel in an NASD arbitration matter. In the arbitration action, Danielle’s client, a long-standing insurance broker, sought recovery for damages to his ownership interest in his insurance brokerage. Following extensive discovery and a three-week quasi-judicial arbitration hearing, the arbitration panel agreed that the insurance company owed the broker for the value of his business and awarded the broker a seven-figure award. The insurance company — who had pushed to have the claims heard in arbitration rather than in the federal court — then sought to have the federal court vacate the arbitration award. The federal district court refused to do so, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed that ruling.
State of Iowa v. Unisys Corporation v. Heritage National Health Plan, 637 N.W.2d 142 (Iowa 2001): Mark Weinhardt and Danielle Shelton represented Unisys Corporation in this lengthy litigation over a claimed computer error by Unisys that allegedly cost the Iowa Medicaid program approximately $17 million in overpayments to health maintenance organizations. The HMO that was the predominant beneficiary of the alleged mistake obtained summary judgment against Unisys' third party claim seeking reimbursement for the loss to the State, but Mark successfully argued an appeal of that ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court, which reversed the summary judgment. Mark then tried the third party claim against the HMO and obtained a bench trial ruling in Unisys' favor for the full amount of its claim, which was then settled in lieu of the HMO's appeal.
Roquette America, Inc. v. Gerber, et al., 651 N.W.2d 896 (Iowa App. 2002): This was a complex international trade secret lawsuit between competing European conglomerates. Mark Weinhardt successfully argued this interlocutory appeal. The Iowa Court of Appeals reversed the district court's denial of a motion to dismiss on personal jurisdiction grounds, thus sending the dispute to Europe for resolution. The case presented an apparent issue of national first impression regarding a particular application of the "effects test" from Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984).
EFCO Corp. v. Symons Corp., 219 F.3d 942 (8th Cir. 2000): Danielle Shelton assisted lead counsel in representing EFCO in its lawsuit involving federal and state law claims against a competitor based on unfair business practices. EFCO prevailed in its federal Lanham Act claim that its competitor had falsely advertised to EFCO’s detriment. Additionally, EFCO prevailed on its state law claims demonstrating that its competitor had misappropriated EFCO’s trade secrets and had induced a former EFCO executive to breach his fiduciary duties to the company. Following the three-week trial in federal court, the jury awarded EFCO over $14 million. The verdict was upheld on appeal.
Rail Intermodal Specialists v. General Electric Capital Corporation, 103 F.3d 627 (8th Cir. 1996): Mark Weinhardt served as lead trial counsel for GE's financing subsidiary in this lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that GECC intentionally interfered with a contract between the plaintiff and GECC's borrower, a Midwestern railroad. The plaintiff sought damages of approximately $15 million. Following a jury trial of nearly three weeks, the jury awarded the plaintiff $1 million. In an appeal handled by Mark and his Belin McCormick partner Mark McCormick, the Eighth Circuit reversed and granted judgment in GECC's favor.