Ahrens v. Fenton

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMcCLAIN
Citation138 Iowa 559,115 N.W. 233
PartiesAHRENS v. FENTON ET AL.
Decision Date11 March 1908

138 Iowa 559
115 N.W. 233

AHRENS
v.
FENTON ET AL.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

March 11, 1908.


Appeal from District Court, Boone County; C. G. Lee, Judge.

Action on a promissory note for $400, and for damages under a lease of farm land by plaintiff to defendant Ed Fenton, in which plaintiff asked for an attachment against the property of defendant, and in pursuance of which there was a levy on said defendant's property, which was released by delivery bond. The defendants admitted liability on the note, denied breach of the provisions of the lease, and interposed a counterclaim for damages on the attachment bond on account of the wrongful and malicious suing out of the attachment. There was a verdict for defendant for $412, and it appears from answers to special interrogatories that in fixing this amount the jury allowed defendants $37 as actual damages, and $800 as exemplary damages, for the wrongful suing out of the attachment. After hearing argument on plaintiff's motion for new trial the court reduced the allowance of actual damages to defendants to $25, and the allowance of exemplary damages to $500, and entered judgment in defendants' favor for $100, dividing the costs equally between the parties and taxing in defendants' favor $100 as attorney fees on account of the wrongful attachment. Plaintiff appeals. Reversed.

[115 N.W. 234]

D. G. Baker, for appellant.

Goodykoontz & Mahoney and Geo. W. Crooks, for appellees.


McCLAIN, J.

One of the grounds for new trial set up in plaintiff's motion was that the exemplary damages allowed by the jury were excessive, and that the verdict appeared on the face of the record to have been given under the influence of passion and prejudice. We think that on this ground at least the motion should have been sustained. There is slight evidence of malice aside from the mere fact that plaintiff made claim for a considerable sum on account of damages to the leased property by the defendant Ed Fenton in violation of the terms of his lease which was not allowed by the jury. The defendants were, in fact, about to make sale of all the stock and personal property on the leased premises, with a view to removing from the state in the spring following the suing out of the attachment, which was in December, and they refused in any way to secure the payment of the indebtness to plaintiff, which included the $400 note in suit, coming due on February 1st. The actual damages suffered by the defendant on account of the attachment was found by the jury to be $37, which amount the court subsequently reduced to $25 on the ground that the evidence did not justify the allowance of a larger amount by way of actual damages. Under these circumstances, conceding that the grounds for attachment alleged were not, in fact, true, and that plaintiff had no reasonable cause to believe them to be true, we think that the allowance of $800 by the jury by way of exemplary damages was so excessive and unreasonable as to show passion and prejudice. The fact of suing out the attachment without reason to believe the ground stated therein to be true would in itself tend to show malice. Nordhaus v. Peterson, 54 Iowa, 68, 6 N. W. 77;Hurlbut v. Hardenbrook, 85 Iowa, 606, 52 N. W. 510;Wright v. Waddell, 89 Iowa, 350, 56 N. W. 650. But malice is not to be inferred from the mere finding that nothing was due the plaintiff by reason of a counterclaim. Smeaton v. Cole, 120 Iowa, 368, 94 N. W. 909. Conceding the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the allowance of exemplary damages, the court still had the right to take into account the

[115 N.W. 235]

facts as disclosed by the evidence in determining whether an excessive amount by way of exemplary damages had been allowed. Eastman v. Miller, 113 Iowa, 404, 85 N. W. 635;Sadler v. Bean, 38 Iowa, 684;Loewenthal v. Streng, 90 Ill. 74. The trial court evidently thought the...

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24 practice notes
  • Amos v. Prom, Civ. No. 571.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 30, 1953
    ...29 L.R.A.,N.S., 272, $500 exemplary damages and $300 attorney's fee permitted where only $40 compensatory damages; Ahrens v. Fenton, 1908, 138 Iowa 559, 115 N.W. 233; Connelly v. White, 1904, 122 Iowa 391, 98 N.W. 144; Hooker v. Chittenden, 1898, 106 Iowa 321, 76 N.W. 706; Boardman v. Marsh......
  • Henderson v. Dreyfus., No. 2166.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • May 8, 1919
    ...App. 322; Sackheim v. Miller, 136 Ill. App. 132 (see, contra, Illinois C. R. Co. v. Ebert, 74 Ill. 399); Ahrens v. Fenton, 138 Iowa, 559, 115 N. W. 233; Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co. v. Cone, 37 Kan. 567, 15 Pac. 499; Steinbuchel v. Wright, 43 Kan. 307, 23 Pac. 560; Atchison, T. & S. ......
  • Geist v. Moore, 6408
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 22, 1937
    ...Service Interstate Transp. Co., 13 N.J. Misc. 80, 177 A. 357; World Oil Co. v. Hicks, (Tex. Civ. App.) 75 S.W.2d 905; Ahrens v. Fenton, 138 Iowa 559, 115 N.W. 233; Rhyne v. Turley, 37 Okla. 159, 131 P. 695; Minneapolis St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway Co. v. Moquin, 283 U.S. 520, 51 ......
  • McCollough v. Lee (In re Hollis' Estate), No. 46594.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 12, 1944
    ...Bettendorf Axle Co., 171 Iowa 221-224, 153 N.W. 1005;Sawyer v. Iowa C. P. A. Ass'n, 177 Iowa 218, 223, 224, 158 N.W. 679;Ahrens v. Fenton, 138 Iowa 559, 561, 562, 115 N.W. 233. Subdivisions (d) and (e) of rule 244, except for the factor of inadequacy in (d), are the same as subdivisions 4 a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • Amos v. Prom, Civ. No. 571.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • September 30, 1953
    ...29 L.R.A.,N.S., 272, $500 exemplary damages and $300 attorney's fee permitted where only $40 compensatory damages; Ahrens v. Fenton, 1908, 138 Iowa 559, 115 N.W. 233; Connelly v. White, 1904, 122 Iowa 391, 98 N.W. 144; Hooker v. Chittenden, 1898, 106 Iowa 321, 76 N.W. 706; Boardman v. Marsh......
  • Henderson v. Dreyfus., No. 2166.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • May 8, 1919
    ...App. 322; Sackheim v. Miller, 136 Ill. App. 132 (see, contra, Illinois C. R. Co. v. Ebert, 74 Ill. 399); Ahrens v. Fenton, 138 Iowa, 559, 115 N. W. 233; Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co. v. Cone, 37 Kan. 567, 15 Pac. 499; Steinbuchel v. Wright, 43 Kan. 307, 23 Pac. 560; Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co......
  • Geist v. Moore, 6408
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 22, 1937
    ...Service Interstate Transp. Co., 13 N.J. Misc. 80, 177 A. 357; World Oil Co. v. Hicks, (Tex. Civ. App.) 75 S.W.2d 905; Ahrens v. Fenton, 138 Iowa 559, 115 N.W. 233; Rhyne v. Turley, 37 Okla. 159, 131 P. 695; Minneapolis St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway Co. v. Moquin, 283 U.S. 520, 51 S.Ct......
  • McCollough v. Lee (In re Hollis' Estate), No. 46594.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 12, 1944
    ...Bettendorf Axle Co., 171 Iowa 221-224, 153 N.W. 1005;Sawyer v. Iowa C. P. A. Ass'n, 177 Iowa 218, 223, 224, 158 N.W. 679;Ahrens v. Fenton, 138 Iowa 559, 561, 562, 115 N.W. 233. Subdivisions (d) and (e) of rule 244, except for the factor of inadequacy in (d), are the same as subdivisions 4 a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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