In re Marriage of Briddle, 05-2115.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation756 N.W.2d 35
Docket NumberNo. 05-2115.,05-2115.
PartiesIn re the MARRIAGE OF Elizabeth A. BRIDDLE and David J. Briddle Upon the Petition of Elizabeth A. Briddle, Appellee, And concerning David J. Briddle, Appellant.
Decision Date05 September 2008
756 N.W.2d 35
In re the MARRIAGE OF Elizabeth A. BRIDDLE and David J. Briddle
Upon the Petition of Elizabeth A. Briddle, Appellee,
And concerning David J. Briddle, Appellant.
No. 05-2115.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
September 5, 2008.

[756 N.W.2d 36]

Patricia A. Schoff, David Swinton, and Margaret C. Callahan of Belin Lamson McCormick Zumbach Flynn, a Professional Corporation, Des Moines, for appellant.

John C. Conger, West Des Moines, for appellee.

HECHT, Justice.

After engaging in contentious discovery disputes for more than two years, the parties spent a long day negotiating a settlement of their dissolution action with the assistance of a mediator. The mediator summarized the terms of the accord in a letter to the parties' counsel, but the parties were subsequently unable to agree upon a proposed decree. The district court refused to enforce the mediated settlement, a trial was held on all disputed issues, and a dissolution decree was entered. The court of appeals affirmed the dissolution of the parties' marriage but reversed the balance of the district court's decision, concluding the settlement should be enforced. We vacate the decision of the court of appeals, affirm the dissolution decree as modified herein, and remand to the district court for entry of a decree consistent

756 N.W.2d 37

with the terms of the settlement reached by the parties.

I. Factual Background and Proceedings.

Elizabeth and David Briddle met while they were employed as real estate agents. They were married on September 12, 1992. Elizabeth and David are the parents of three minor children.

David acquired minority-shareholder interests in several corporations that lease space and provide management services to antique dealers. The five corporations do business under the name of "Brass Armadillo" in Des Moines, Omaha, Kansas City, Phoenix, Denver and Cincinnati. Three of the corporations are Iowa corporations, and the others are incorporated in Nevada.

Elizabeth finished her undergraduate degree after the marriage and resumed selling real estate. She interrupted her real estate career to become a stay-at-home mother. Marital discord arose, and Elizabeth filed a petition for dissolution on October 23, 2002. She returned to school at Des Moines Area Community College in the fall semester of 2002 and completed her training in medical sonography at Mercy College of Health in May 2005. Although she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease during the marriage, the evidence establishes that the disease is controlled with medications. She is employed in the medical field in Iowa City and earns $46,000 per year.

Elizabeth requested production of documents evidencing David's income and the value of his minority interests in the several Brass Armadillo corporations. On several occasions during the litigation, the district court held hearings calculated to resolve the parties' protracted discovery disputes. Unsatisfied with David's claims that he was not authorized as a minority shareholder to produce the corporations' financial records, Elizabeth filed a series of motions to compel production of documents.

David eventually filed suit against the corporations to obtain the requested information under Iowa Code section 490.1602(2)(b) (entitling shareholder to inspect and copy the corporations' accounting records "at a reasonable location specified by the corporation"). Elizabeth intervened in that litigation, and the court entered an order on August 14, 2004, directing only the Iowa corporations to produce their check ledgers, general ledgers, certified financial statements, profit and loss statements, and tax returns no later than September 25, 2004. The court's order did not, however, resolve the discovery dispute.

The Iowa corporations sought a protective order on the ground that the discovery of their records ordered by the court in the August 14 order exceeded the definition of "accounting records" contemplated by section 490.1602. Elizabeth filed another motion to compel production of documents and served on the corporations' custodian of records a notice of deposition and subpoena duces tecum demanding access to "any and all books and records regarding the Nevada corporations" and "all credit card statements for the last 2 years." The Nevada corporations sought an order quashing the subpoena, contending the documents exceeded the scope of discovery previously ordered by the court. Yet another hearing was held by the court to address pending discovery motions on January 4, 2005. The court extended the discovery deadline to allow time for the production of documents and completion of depositions, and ordered David to produce "all information in his possession related to the out-of-state corporations."

756 N.W.2d 38

Elizabeth's counsel deposed David in early January of 2005. David's deposition testimony disclosed the location of the corporations' accounting records in Ankeny and generally described the companies' accounting practices. Thereafter, Elizabeth's counsel again invoked the court's authority to gain access to the corporations' records at the Ankeny office location. On January 18, 2005, the district court ordered the corporations to produce their records "at the facility where they [were] located" or at some other place agreed upon by counsel.1 The corporations produced to Elizabeth's counsel on January 21, 2005 a disk containing accounting records and supporting data for all of the Brass Armadillo corporations for the years 2003 and 2004.2

Despite the corporations' production of their voluminous accounting records, Elizabeth's counsel insisted he be allowed to inspect the records at the corporations' Ankeny office. Another subpoena duces tecum was served on the corporations' custodian of records demanding production of the records at that office on January 31, 2005. The corporations sought a protective order, claiming they had satisfied their obligation to respond to Elizabeth's discovery requests. After yet another hearing, the court filed an order on February 1, 2005 generally directing Brass Armadillo, Inc. to fully comply with the court's prior discovery orders.3

The scheduled trial date of Tuesday, February 8, 2005 was drawing near. Having previously reached a stipulation resolving their disputes as to child custody and visitation matters, David and Elizabeth agreed to mediate the issues of child support, spousal support and property division on Saturday, February 5, 2005. After eleven hours of negotiations, the parties reached an accord on all issues. In relevant part, the agreement called for David to pay child support in the amount of $2200 per month, a property settlement of $425,000 in ten annual installments, and spousal support in an amount equal to five percent of the declining unpaid balance of the property settlement. David also agreed to pay Elizabeth $61,300 for the fees charged by her attorneys and expert witnesses. In a thorough letter to counsel for the parties on February 8, the mediator detailed the terms of the agreement and noted his understanding that counsel for the parties would draft the documents necessary to complete the dissolution.4

756 N.W.2d 39

Counsel for the parties notified the district court that a settlement had been reached.

On February 9, 2005, David's counsel faxed a proposed decree and supporting child support worksheets to Elizabeth's counsel. Elizabeth withheld her approval of the proposed decree, contending it constituted an admission by David that his earnings were more...

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7 cases
  • Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Gailey, 09-0937.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 19, 2010
    ...and issues involved.” Id. We treat a stipulation conceding an issue in the case like a settlement agreement. In re Marriage of Briddle, 756 N.W.2d 35, 39-40 (Iowa 2008). If sufficient legal consideration supports this type of stipulation, it is entitled to all of the sanctity of an ordinary......
  • In re Freund, 11–0839.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • February 29, 2012
    ...proceedings retains the power to reject the parties' stipulation if it is unfair or contrary to law. In re Marriage of Briddle, 756 N.W.2d 35, 40 (Iowa 2008). But in this case, the district court noted in its ruling on post-trial motions that it accepted Tony's position on visitation as set......
  • In re McManus, 13–1878.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • October 15, 2014
    ...the court retains the power to reject the contents of a stipulation if they are unfair or contrary to law. In re Marriage of Briddle, 756 N .W.2d 35, 40 (Iowa 2008). Further, we note the joint statement was more akin to a stipulation as to certain evidence and the claims each party expected......
  • Thul v. & Concerning Brian W. Thul, 15-1029
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • May 25, 2016
    ...Id. at 646. A court may reject a stipulation if it Page 8is unfair or contrary to law. Id.; see also In re Marriage of Briddle, 756 N.W.2d 35, 40 (Iowa 2008) ("The court does, however, retain the power to reject the parties' stipulation if it is unfair or contrary to law."). The district co......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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