Hogan v. Chesterman

Decision Date30 May 1979
Docket NumberNo. 61753,61753
PartiesLloyd HOGAN, Appellant, v. Roger CHESTERMAN, Appellee.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Randal J. Nigg of Reynolds, Kenline, Breitbach, McCarthy, Clemens, McKay & Naughton, Dubuque, for appellant.

Michael J. Coyle of Fuerste, Carew, Coyle, Juergens & Sudmeier, Dubuque, for appellee.


HARRIS, Justice.

The question is whether jurisdiction for an untimely appeal can be preserved by an undisclosed stipulation of the parties. The answer is no. Loss of jurisdiction flows automatically from the passage of time. Courts cannot function, nor retain jurisdiction, on the basis of understandings among the litigants. The appeal must be dismissed.

Suit was started July 30, 1975, for damages as the result of a car-motorcycle accident on June 20, 1974. It was not tried until August 9, 1977. A jury verdict in favor of defendant was reached August 12, 1977.

On August 15, the trial court entered an order extending time to file a motion for new trial to "30 days from the date of this order." Under Iowa R.Civ.P. 247 such motions ". . . must be filed within ten days after the verdict, report or decision is filed, or the jury is discharged, as the case may be, unless the court, for good cause shown and not ex parte, grants an additional time not to exceed thirty days."

Plaintiff's motion for new trial was not filed until September 30, more than two weeks after the 30-day period expired. No objection was made to its untimeliness. This, according to a joint affidavit of counsel, filed with us on appeal, was because the parties orally agreed to allow a motion for new trial beyond the time granted by the court. This oral agreement was not made known to the court.

On January 31, 1978, the trial court overruled the motion for new trial on its merits. Notice of appeal was filed by plaintiff on February 28, 1978.

Because jurisdiction was lost, notwithstanding the undisclosed agreement of counsel, we do not reach the merits of the case.

I. The question of jurisdiction has not been raised by either party. But we have said many times jurisdiction is something we consider Sua sponte. Recker v. Gustafson, 271 N.W.2d 738, 739 (Iowa 1978); City of Eldridge v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 270 N.W.2d 637, 641 (Iowa 1978); Qualley v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 261 N.W.2d 466, 467 (Iowa 1978); Albion Elevator v. Chicago & N.W. Transp. Co., 254 N.W.2d 6, 11 (Iowa 1977); DeKruyff v. Johnston, 252 N.W.2d 389, 390 (Iowa 1977).

It is difficult to reconcile our cases on waiver of objection to untimely motions with those which consider jurisdiction following untimely motions. This is because of tension between their conflicting premises. Waiver cases, discussed in division II, proceed from the view that it would be unfair to allow an advantage to a party by reason of a failure he has agreed to. Jurisdiction cases, discussed in division III, acknowledge the public interest in judicial administration, especially in case flow management. For the most part, the waiver cases, discussed in division II, antedate the jurisdiction cases treated in division III. While the earlier cases are not entirely overruled by the more recent ones, we think it is now well established that any equities which might arise among the litigants from their agreements must yield to the court's clear duty to press for a conclusion of litigation.

II. Waiver of objections to untimeliness. Past cases focused on the principle that a party can waive an objection to the untimeliness of a motion for new trial by silence, consent, or stipulation. For example, in Thompson v. Butler, 223 Iowa 1085, 274 N.W. 110 (1937), a jury returned a verdict for the defendant. Thereafter the trial court gave an extension of time for filing a motion for new trial. In its order the court mistakenly granted the extension to defendant rather than to the unsuccessful plaintiff who was the moving party. Nevertheless, the plaintiff filed a motion for new trial. Subsequently, the trial court sustained the motion and defendant appealed. After the appeal was taken, the trial court entered an order Nunc pro tunc to correct the evident mistake. The Nunc pro tunc order stated plaintiff, not defendant, was accorded the extension. The defendant made a special appearance to contest the trial court's jurisdiction to correct the order of extension, contending the appeal had vested sole jurisdiction in the supreme court.

We denied defendant's claim without directly responding to his argument. Our holding was based on the ground that any error in allowing plaintiff to benefit from the extension was waived by the defendant. We stated: "It is . . . well established that the belated filing of a motion for new trial or exceptions to instructions may be waived and the matters heard on their merits. (Authorities.)" 223 Iowa at 1090, 274 N.W. at 112.

The waiver of objection principle is even more strongly supported by Home Sav. Bank v. Klise, 205 Iowa 1103, 216 N.W. 109 (1928), cited in Thompson. Home Savings Bank obtained a judgment foreclosing a mortgage it held on Klise's farm. The judgment was cancelled after the foreclosure sale. Subsequently, on the bank's application, the judgment was reinstated. Thereafter Klise filed an untimely motion to reconsider the order of reinstatement. That motion was overruled on its merits.

On appeal the bank moved to dismiss the appeal as untimely. We rejected the argument. We held that the bank, by addressing or resisting the motion only on its merits, had waived any right to object by reason of its untimeliness. 205 Iowa at 1108-1109, 216 N.W. at 111. Although they can be distinguished, support for our holding in Home Sav. Bank can be found in Berghammer v. Smith, 185 N.W.2d 226 (Iowa 1971); Dunham v. Des Moines Ry. Co., 240 Iowa 421, 35 N.W.2d 578 (1949); Smith v. Smith, 160 Iowa 111, 140 N.W. 659 (1913); In re Assignment of Wilson, 138 Iowa 225, 114 N.W. 551 (1908).

III. Untimeliness of post-trial motion and subsequent jurisdiction. In recent cases we held that jurisdiction is lost by the untimeliness of a post-trial motion. In Qualley v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 261 N.W.2d 466 (Iowa 1978), the plaintiff (Qualley) filed an untimely motion under Iowa R.Civ.P. 179(b) to enlarge or amend the findings and conclusions of the trial court. The motion was overruled. Thereafter Qualley filed a notice of appeal. On appeal, defendant (Chrysler) argued we were without jurisdiction to consider the appeal because it was untimely. Chrysler argued that the untimely post-trial motion, though it was apparently not resisted as untimely in trial court, did not toll the running of the 30-day time for appeal, now Iowa R.App.P. 5.

The question turned on when the 30-day appeal period began to run. If the appeal time ran from the date of the trial court order overruling Qualley's post-trial motion it was timely. If the appeal period...

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11 cases
  • Rudolph v. Iowa Methodist Medical Center
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 18 Junio 1980
    ...than thirty days after judgment although within thirty days of the ruling on the post-trial motions. See Iowa R.App.P. 5; Hogan v. Chesterman, 279 N.W.2d 12 (Iowa 1979). If the notice of appeal was too late, we lack subject matter jurisdiction of the Iowa R.Civ.P. 247 provides in relevant p......
  • Blessum v. Howard County Bd. of Sup'rs
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    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 27 Agosto 1980
    ...than thirty days after judgment although within thirty days of the ruling on the post-trial motions. See Iowa R.App.P. 5; Hogan v. Chesterman, 279 N.W.2d 12 (Iowa 1979). If the notice of appeal was too late, we lack subject matter jurisdiction of the "(T)he maximum period of time which a tr......
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    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 14 Enero 1981
    ...a timely notice of appeal is jurisdictional, Rudolph v. Iowa Methodist Medical Center, 293 N.W.2d 550, 554 (Iowa 1980); Hogan v. Chesterman, 279 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Iowa 1979), we conclude the motion should be In the petition Poulsens alleged several claims at law and in addition stated a claim ......
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    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • 24 Noviembre 1980
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