Here is a sampling of significant civil cases handled by the attorneys at The Weinhardt Law Firm.
Paulson v. Hubbell Homes, et al. (Warren County District Court 2021): Todd Lantz and Elisabeth Tursi successfully defended Hubbell Homes against claims for fraud, breach of contract, and violation of Iowa Code Chapter 558A. The plaintiffs alleged they were not informed about a pipeline easement in the backyard of a high-end residential property Hubbell Homes denied liability and took the case to trial, where the plaintiffs asked the jury to award more than $400,000 in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages. After a six-day trial, the jury returned a complete defense verdict, finding that Hubbell Homes did nothing wrong, the plaintiffs suffered no damages, and the plaintiffs were 100% at fault for the problem.
Manatt v. Manatt (Delaware County District Court 2021): The Firm’s client was sued by his brother in an attempt to force him to sell stock in a privately held company. The suit was based on a buy-sell agreement that allegedly required the Firm’s client to sell his stock at a discount. The Firm won a complete victory at trial. After the plaintiff’s presentation, the district court issued a directed verdict declaring the buy-sell agreement invalid and allowing the Firm’s client to retain his stock in the company.
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.
Historic Tama LLC Insurance Coverage Dispute (2019): The Firm represented the owner of a recently redeveloped historic building in downtown Burlington, Iowa. The building burned down in a fire just weeks before it was set to open to the public. The redevelopment project was financed with a variety of tax credits and grants, which were lost along with the building. After receiving offers to settle the insurance claim that would have made redevelopment impossible, the building owner hired the Firm to advocate on its behalf with the insurance company. Following a pre-suit mediation, the insurance company agreed to pay a total of more than $12 million to the owner, an amount that was more than the insurance company contended was the limit on the policy.
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.
Maintenance Enterprises, LLC v. Orascom E&C USA, Inc. (S.D. Iowa 2018): The Firm’s attorneys represented a Louisiana-based mechanical contractor in a dispute with the general contractor on the largest construction project in the history of Iowa, the Iowa Fertilizer Plant in southeast Iowa. The general contractor terminated the Firm’s client, seized its tools, and refused to pay roughly $50 million in invoices. When the subcontractor sued, the general contractor counterclaimed for $94 million alleging defective work, delays, and cost overruns. The Firm joined the case, which was more than two years old, with just five months before trial when settlement became impossible and the client sought experienced lead trial counsel. Following a three-week jury trial in federal court in Davenport, the jury awarded the Firm’s client approximately $62.4 million in unpaid bills and other categories of damages and did not award a single dollar to the general contractor on its counterclaims.
Ron Corbett v. Section 43.24 Panel (Polk County District Court 2018): The Firm was retained to represent a panel consisting of the Iowa Secretary of State, the Iowa State Auditor, and the Iowa Attorney General, convened pursuant to Iowa Code 43.24, in defense of a lawsuit by a politician who was the former mayor of Cedar Rapids and former Speaker of the Iowa House. The politician sought to challenge the incumbent Iowa Governor in a primary election, but the panel had determined the politician’s nominating petition was legally insufficient. The case moved expeditiously, as the Firm’s lawyers completed a merits hearing before a district court judge in less than four days from their first involvement. Based on the Firm’s advocacy, the district court quickly issued a ruling fully in the panel’s favor, dismissing the politician’s lawsuit. The same day that the ruling was released, the politician also announced he would not appeal.
Billy Dean Carter, Bill G. Carter, and the Estate of Shirley D. Carter by and through Bill G. Carter, Executor v. Jason Carter (Marion County District Court 2017): The Firm represented the plaintiffs in a complex wrongful death case arising from the 2015 slaying of Shirley Carter at her rural Iowa farmhouse. The defendant was Shirley’s youngest son, Jason Carter. The civil wrongful death suit was brought by Shirley’s estate, Bill Carter (her widower), and Billy Carter (her oldest son). When the criminal investigation stalled, the plaintiffs hired the Firm to advance the investigation through civil discovery and go to trial. In the unusual situation of a civil trial proceeding in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation, the Firm successfully navigated complex motion practice with the defendant and the Office of the Iowa Attorney General, including a motion for interlocutory appeal before the Iowa Supreme Court. Following a jury trial, the Firm’s clients were awarded more than $10.25 million. Two days after the jury’s verdict, Jason Carter was arrested for first degree murder. The case generated substantial national publicity, including two episodes of NBC Dateline.
From 2014-2017, the Firm represented clients in nearly a half-dozen complex disputes concerning the ownership and control of several major business entities. The Firm's clients included minority owners claiming oppression, violations of fiduciary duties, and fraud, and majority owners defending against similar claims. The business entities operated in wide-ranging industries, including construction, building materials, manufacturing of agricultural equipment, and custom software development. On behalf of the Firm's clients, Mark Weinhardt, Todd Lantz, and David Fautsch aggressively prepared, threatened, pursued, and defended claims in litigation, while in other cases, they used the backdrop of litigation to reach a successful resolution for their clients.
Matter Before the Iowa Real Estate Appraiser Board (2017): Facing a disciplinary complaint and investigation by the Iowa Real Estate Appraiser Board, two appraisers in a national real estate services firm hired the Firm to defend against any professional disciplinary proceedings. Todd Lantz and David Fautsch investigated the complaint and submitted a written response, which led the Board to dismiss the complaint and close the investigation without any discipline.
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.
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.
Westlake Investments, LLC v. MLP Management, LLC, 842 F. Supp. 2d 1119 (S.D. Iowa 2012); National Surety Corp. v. Westlake Investments, LLC, Iowa District Court for Polk County (2014): Todd Lantz represented the owner of a 300-unit apartment complex in litigation against the developer/builder and over a dozen subcontractors arising from widespread construction defects that resulted in severe water penetration problems. After contentious litigation, Todd helped negotiate a settlement that involved a nearly $3 million payment to his clients and assignment of claims. Next, Todd represented the apartment owners in a contractual indemnification claim against a stone veneer subcontractor. Following a seven-day bench trial, the district court awarded over a half million dollars in damages and attorney fees to the owners. Finally, Todd represented the apartment owners in hotly contested litigation with the builder's insurance carrier, which had denied coverage. Todd served as lead counsel in a three-week jury trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Firm's client for the full amount Todd requested in closing arguments, over $12.4 million.
Iowa Realty Company, Inc. v. Keller Williams Realty, Inc., et al. (Polk County District Court 2014): Mark Weinhardt and Danielle Shelton, along with an attorney from the Washington D.C. office of Norton Rose Fulbright, represented a national real estate brokerage firm, Keller Williams Realty, Inc., in a lawsuit brought by a prominent local real estate brokerage. The plaintiff alleged that the Firm’s client engaged in improper competitive activities, including instigating an allegedly groundless earlier lawsuit. The Firm’s client faced claims of malicious prosecution, abuse of process, defamation, and tortious interference with contract. The national realtor immediately moved to dismiss, with Mark arguing the motion. Agreeing with nearly all of the Firm’s arguments, the district court dismissed all of the claims against the Firm’s client except tortious interference. The local realty company then voluntarily dismissed the remaining claim, ending the lawsuit for the Firm’s client.
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.
Redstone Painting Company, LLC v. Kersey (United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Iowa 2013): Todd Lantz represented two construction companies that sought a judgment for fraud against a bankruptcy debtor. After a bench trial, the Court awarded a judgment in the full amount demanded by the Firm’s client and determined that the judgment was not discharged in the bankruptcy proceedings.
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.
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.
Van Wyk, et al. v. Van Wyk, et al. (Marion County District Court for 2013): Mark Weinhardt represented a 92-year-old widow, and the trustees of a trust she established, in a dispute with her eldest child over the ownership of family farmland. The elderly woman’s son asserted that she was bound by option contracts she had signed that required her to sell her interest in farmland at below-market prices. After a four-day trial, a Marion County District judge agreed with Mark that the contracts were unenforceable. The court invalidated the contracts and ordered the land sold at market value, which resulted in nearly $1 million of additional value for the Firm's clients. The judge also awarded The Firm’s clients over $168,000 in back rent.
Pro Cooperative v. William Wollesen, Iowa District Court for Pocahontas County (2012): Todd Lantz served as sole trial counsel for a corn producer, defending against claims asserted by a cooperative for nearly $120,000 based on alleged contracts for the future delivery of grain. Todd obtained a complete defense judgment for his client following a bench trial.
Cornerstone Consultants, Inc. v. Production Input Solutions, L.L.C., 789 F. Supp. 2d 1029 (N.D. Iowa 2011): Todd Lantz represented a buying group for livestock production companies in litigation pursued by a former business associate. Todd successfully obtained dismissal of legal claim based on the Federal Stored Communications Act, under which the plaintiff sought statutory and punitive damages.
NevadaCare v. Department of Human Services et al., 783 N.W.2d 459 (Iowa 2010): Mark Weinhardt and Danielle Shelton successfully defended the Iowa Department of Human Services in a two-week bench trial. A health maintenance organization that contracted with the DHS to provide medical care to indigents alleged that actuarial mistakes were made in the complex process by which its rates were determined. The HMO claimed that as a result, it had been underpaid by approximately $43 million. Following the trial, the district court denied relief to the HMO and granted judgment in favor of the DHS. The HMO appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, where Mark and Danielle successfully defended the district court's judgment that the DHS was not liable to the HMO.
McGinnis et al. v. Vischering, L.L.C. et al. (Polk County District Court 2010): Mark Weinhardt defended an architectural firm accused of conspiring with a landlord and a real estate management firm to defraud tenants in an office building into paying excess rent. Following a one-week jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mark's client.
Nutritional Supplement Patent Infringement Lawsuit (United States District Court, Middle District of Florida 2009): Mark Weinhardt represented a firm in the nutritional supplement industry that sued a competitor alleging patent infringement based on the chemical composition of the competitor's product. Mark successfully argued both the "Markman" claim construction hearing and the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The court denied the summary judgment motion and issued a claim construction highly favorable to Mark's client. The case settled thereafter.
Bottoms v. Stapleton, 706 N.W.2d 411 (Iowa 2005) (Polk County District Court 2008, 2009): 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. Then, in 2008 and 2009, Mark tried the compensatory and punitive damages phases of the case, resulting in a dismissal of the plaintiff's claims and compensatory and punitive judgments of several hundred thousand dollars each in favor of their clients and against the plaintiff and his company.
Iowa Heart Center v. Clark, et al. (Polk County District Court 2008): Mark Weinhardt tried a temporary injunction hearing on behalf of a medical practice group against several physicians who departed Mark's client to commence medical practice with a competitor. At Mark's urging, the court enforced the noncompetition agreement against the physicians, after which the parties reached a settlement.
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.
Maytag Corporation v. U.S. Pacific Corporation (United States District Court, Southern District of Iowa 2004): Mark Weinhardt defended Maytag Corporation in a two and one-half week jury trial against a claim from a trademark licensee that Maytag had improperly terminated the trademark license agreement. The licensee sought approximately $14 million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages. The jury returned a defense verdict for Maytag after just three hours of deliberation.
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); (Polk County District Court 2000, 2003): 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. After one week of a bench trial, Mark and Danielle negotiated a settlement in which Unisys paid less than one-fourth of the value of the State's claim.
The HMO that was the predominant beneficiary of the alleged mistake obtained summary judgment against Unisys' third party claim seeking reimbursement for the settlement payment 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.
TeamQuest Corporation v. Unisys Corporation, United States District Court, Northern District of Iowa (2000): Mark Weinhardt represented Unisys Corporation in a dispute with a software vendor whose software was integral to many Unisys products and services. The dispute concerned the proper calculation of royalties paid to the vendor. In the course of the litigation, the vendor sought to terminate the relationship between the companies, thus depriving Unisys of the benefit of the software. Mark successfully obtained a preliminary injunction restraining the vendor from terminating the relationship. Mark later negotiated a settlement of the entire dispute.
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.