Haynes v. Ruhoff, No. 52852

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtLARSON; GARFIELD
Citation261 Iowa 1279,157 N.W.2d 914
PartiesWalter HAYNES and Ruth Haynes, Appellants, v. Edward J. RUHOFF, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 52852
Decision Date09 April 1968

Page 914

157 N.W.2d 914
261 Iowa 1279
Walter HAYNES and Ruth Haynes, Appellants,
v.
Edward J. RUHOFF, Appellee.
No. 52852.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
April 9, 1968.

[261 Iowa 1280]

Page 915

Miller, Pearson & Gloe, Decorah, for appellants.

Brown, Dresser, Kinsey & Jolas, Mason City, for appellee.

LARSON, Justice.

When the defendant Edward J. Ruhoff, a nonresident of Iowa, failed to appear in response to a proper and timely service of notice of an action for damages against him resulting from an automobile collision in Howard County, Iowa, the trial court on July 6, 1967, entered an order finding him 'in default for failure to file pleadings as required by law.' Defendant's motion to set aside default filed August 16th, after hearing, was sustained on August 24th and, upon application, this court granted inter-locutory appeal.

The issues before us are whether defendant sufficiently met his burden to show 'good cause' as is imposed upon him by rule 236, Rules of Civil Procedure, and whether, as a matter of law under the showing made, the trial court could set aside a default duly entered herein.

[261 Iowa 1281] I. Rule 236, Rules of Civil Procedure, provides:

'On motion and for Good cause shown, and upon such terms as the court prescribes, but not ex parte, the court may set aside a default or the judgment thereon, for mistake, inadvertence, surprise, excusable neglect or unavoidable casualty. Such motion must be filed promptly after the discovery of the grounds thereof, but not more than sixty days after entry of the judgment. * * *' (Emphasis added.)

We have had occasion to consider this rule in a number of recent cases and have announced therein our view as to its application and meaning. Hobbs v. Martin Marietta Co., 257 Iowa 124, 131 N.W.2d 772; Edgar v. Armored Carrier Corp., 256 Iowa 700, 128 N.W.2d 922; Handy v. Handy, 250 Iowa 879, 96 N.W.2d 922; Svoboda v. Svoboda, 245 Iowa 111, 60 N.W.2d 859; American State Bank v. Leaver, Iowa, 153 N.W.2d 348. Both parties here cite and make reference to these pronouncements.

Conclusions reached in these cases have application here. 'A 'good cause' is a sound, effective and truthful reason. It is something more than an excuse, a plea, apology, extenuation, or some justification, for the resulting effect.' Svoboda v. Svoboda, supra. It is movant's burden to show 'good cause' or 'reasonable excuse.' Booth v. Central States Mut. Ins. Assn., 235 Iowa 5, 15 N.W.2d 893. He must show his failure to appear and defend was not due to his negligence or want of ordinary care or attention, or to his carelessness or inattention. He must show affirmatively that he 'did intend to appear and defend, and took steps to do so, and because of some misunderstanding, accident, mistake or excusable neglect he failed to appear.' Hobbs v. Martin Marietta Co., supra. We also said in Hobbs, in instances where there was a fact question under conflicting evidence, the trial court exercises a broad and wide sound judicial discretion in passing on good cause shown. Where there is no factual dispute, if the facts are such that different inferences may be drawn from them, the findings of the trial court, of course, are binding on the appellate court. Edgar v. Armored Carrier Corp., supra. However, where there is no factual issue, a showing of movant's lack of knowledge as to the legal effect of papers duly served upon him will not satisfy the rule. 'As previously[261 Iowa 1282] defined by this court, unavoidable casualty or misfortune means casualty or misfortune growing out of conditions or circumstances that prevented

Page 916

the party or his attorney from doing something that, except therefor, would have been done, and Does not includes mistakes or errors of judgment growing out of misconstruction or misunderstanding of the law, * * *.' (Emphasis added.) Claeys v. Moldenschardt, 260 Iowa 36, 148 N.W.2d 479, at 483 and 484. Although courts favor trials on the merits (Newell v. Tweed, 241 Iowa 90, 40 N.W.2d 20), this objective must be qualified and cannot be extended to the point where a default with be vacated when the petitioner has ignored plaintiff mandates in the rules with ample opportunity to abide by them. 'To do so would be to abrogate the rule and to reward negligence or inattention.' Windus v. Great Plains Gas, 255 Iowa 587, 600, 122 N.W.2d 901, 909. The grounds for setting aside defaults and judgments entered thereon have been liberalized and we have given liberal interpretations of the requirements deemed sufficient to set aside a default (Hobbs v. Martin Marietta Co., supra), but we have never upheld such a grant where the movant fails to show any effort To appear in response to a due and timely notice.

In the case at bar, pursuant to a hearing the trial court concluded our decisions trended toward liberalizing rule 236, R.C.P., and the showing required to set aside a default. Although this is true, it appears if the rule is to be at all meaningful, this liberality must have some limitations. We have not as yet concluded that a showing of confusion and uncertainty by one served with a proper notice of a civil action is sufficient to permit or require the granting of a motion to set aside a default for failure to appear and defend. The trial court thought the circumstances revealed 'good cause' for defendant's confusion and concluded this was sufficient. We must disagree.

II. To determine whether the showing was sufficient to raise a factual issue or whether it was sufficient to meet the requirements of rule 236, we now turn to the record. It discloses that, after the collision...

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27 practice notes
  • Flexsteel Industries, Inc. v. Morbern Industries Ltd., No. 57175
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 17, 1976
    ...of the law, * * *.' Claeys v. Moldenschardt, 260 Iowa 36, 148 N.W.2d 479, 483--484, cited with approval in Haynes v. Ruhoff, 261 Iowa 1279, 157 N.W.2d 914, Neglect as used in rule 236 has been defined as 'omission of proper attention; disregard of duty, from indifference or willfulness; fai......
  • Haynes v. Dairyland Mut. Ins. Co., No. 54901
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 29, 1972
    ...by Haynes. Ruhoff did not appear in court in response to that notice. The Haynes took default which this court upheld. Haynes v. Ruhoff, 261 Iowa 1279, 157 N.W.2d Execution on the judgment was later returned unsatisfied. Haynes then brought this action on the policy against Dairyland. The p......
  • Hartwig v. Olson, No. 52802
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 9, 1968
    ...and interpreted as a whole. Rosin v. Northwestern States Portland Cement Co., 252 Iowa 564, 573, 107 N.W.2d 559, 565, 566 and citations. [261 Iowa 1279] We find no reversible error under defendant's assignments of error to the instructions For the reasons stated this case is Reversed and re......
  • Peterson v. Eitzen, No. 53807
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 13, 1970
    ...litigant evidence an intention to appear and defend. Hobbs v. Martin Marietta Co., 257 Iowa 124, 131 N.W.2d 772; Haynes v. Ruhoff, Iowa, 157 N.W.2d 914. ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • Flexsteel Industries, Inc. v. Morbern Industries Ltd., No. 57175
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 17, 1976
    ...of the law, * * *.' Claeys v. Moldenschardt, 260 Iowa 36, 148 N.W.2d 479, 483--484, cited with approval in Haynes v. Ruhoff, 261 Iowa 1279, 157 N.W.2d 914, Neglect as used in rule 236 has been defined as 'omission of proper attention; disregard of duty, from indifference or willfulness; fai......
  • Haynes v. Dairyland Mut. Ins. Co., No. 54901
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 29, 1972
    ...by Haynes. Ruhoff did not appear in court in response to that notice. The Haynes took default which this court upheld. Haynes v. Ruhoff, 261 Iowa 1279, 157 N.W.2d Execution on the judgment was later returned unsatisfied. Haynes then brought this action on the policy against Dairyland. The p......
  • Hartwig v. Olson, No. 52802
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 9, 1968
    ...and interpreted as a whole. Rosin v. Northwestern States Portland Cement Co., 252 Iowa 564, 573, 107 N.W.2d 559, 565, 566 and citations. [261 Iowa 1279] We find no reversible error under defendant's assignments of error to the instructions For the reasons stated this case is Reversed and re......
  • Peterson v. Eitzen, No. 53807
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 13, 1970
    ...litigant evidence an intention to appear and defend. Hobbs v. Martin Marietta Co., 257 Iowa 124, 131 N.W.2d 772; Haynes v. Ruhoff, Iowa, 157 N.W.2d 914. ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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