Northup's Estate, In re, s. 2--56269

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMcCORMICK
Citation230 N.W.2d 918
PartiesIn re Matter of the ESTATE of R. G. NORTHUP, Deceased. Leota P. HAMLIN, Appellant, v. Anrose A. FOSTER, Appellee.
Docket NumberNos. 2--56269,2--56270,s. 2--56269
Decision Date25 June 1975

Page 918

230 N.W.2d 918
In re Matter of the ESTATE of R. G. NORTHUP, Deceased.
Leota P. HAMLIN, Appellant,
Anrose A. FOSTER, Appellee.
Nos. 2--56269, 2--56270.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
June 25, 1975.

Page 919

Irish, Skinner & Weislander, Altoona, for appellant.

Page 920

John L. Mowry, Marshalltown, and Thoma, Schoenthal, Davis, Hockenberg & Wine, Des Moines, for appellee.

Considered en banc.

McCORMICK, Justice.

This appeal involves the late filing of a claim in an estate. The question is whether claimant is entitled to equitable relief from the bar of the six month limitation period of § 633.410, The Code. The trial court held she is not. We reverse and remand.

Leota P. Hamlin appeals an order dismissing her claim against the estate of R. G. Northup and a separate order dismissing her petition in an action in the Marshall District Court against the executor of the Northup estate. Her claim and lawsuit asked damages for personal injuries she allegedly sustained in a motor vehicle collision with Northup on October 31, 1971. The executor filed motions to dismiss both the claim and the petition, premised on late filing of the claim.

The hearing on the motion to dismiss the claim was held first. In submitting the motion the parties stipulated that there was no misrepresentation or deception by any officer of the court, insurance carrier or interested party causing the failure to file the claim within the six month period after the second publication of notice to creditors, provided in § 633.410, The Code. Claimant sought to bring herself within the exception in § 633.410 which says the six month limitation 'shall not bar claimants entitled to equitable relief due to peculiar circumstances.'

The record in the probate proceeding consisted of facts alleged by claimant in her verified resistance to the executor's motion to dismiss the claim and of exhibits attached to the resistance.

We are favored by detailed trial court findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court summarized the record as follows:

'The claimant, Leota P. Hamlin, was involved in an automobile collision with the decedent on October 31, 1971.

'The decedent, Richard G. Northup, died on November 14, 1971. He was a resident of Marshall County, Iowa, at the time of his death. Anrose A. Foster was appointed as executor of the decedent's will on November 15, 1971 by this court. Notice of appointment of executor and notice to creditors was published pursuant to the law on November 18th and 25th, 1971.

'Sometime after the accident the claimant filed an Iowa accident report indicating that the collision was a nonfatal accident.

'On November 22, 1971, the decedent's insurance carrier wrote to Leota Hamlin in the care of the Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa with reference to her claim against its insured. On November 26, 1971 this letter was answered by Ed Skinner of the firm of Irish & Skinner of Altoona, Iowa. The letter of the insurance carrier and the reply thereto related to medical authorizations. The reply further stated that Attorney Ed Skinner was representing the claimant.

'On or about the 11th day of January, 1972, Mr. Hugh D. Grandfield, Assistant Superintendent of Claims for the insurance carrier, met with Mr. Ed Skinner in his office in Altoona, Iowa, for the first time.

'Sometime in May of 1972 a representative of the insurance carrier attempted to contact Mr. Skinner and was advised by his office that he was in court and unavailable.

'The claimant underwent surgery on numerous occasions after the accident on October 31, 1971, the last surgery being on June 24, 1972. The claimant resides in Bondurant, Iowa, and is not a resident of Marshall County.

'Mr. Skinner did not have notice or know of the death of Richard G. Northup until approximately July 14, 1972.

Page 921

'On July 14, 1972 Mr. Grandfield met with Mr. Skinner at the latter's office in Altoona, Iowa. At that meeting the estate proceedings were mentioned and Mr. Grandfield advised Mr. Skinner that he did not have information concerning the status of the estate proceedings and advised Mr. Skinner to personally resolve that question.

'On August 7, 1972 Mr. Skinner filed the claim in question on behalf of his client, Leota P. Hamlin. It is a claim for damages arising out of the automobile collision with the decedent on October 31, 1971.'

The initial contact between the Northup insurer and claimant occurred November 19, 1971, 19 days after the accident and five days after Northup's death. The insurance company representative talked with claimant by telephone. The record does not show what was said. No one contends claimant was told Northup had died. On the letter enclosing the medical authorization forms mailed to claimant three days later, the reference was to 'Insured: R. G. Northup.' Attorney Skinner's letter in response carried the same reference.

The record does not show when the insurer became aware of Northup's death. The insurer must have known of the death on July 14, 1972, when its representative disclosed the fact to attorney Skinner. The six month period for filing claims had ended May 25, 1972. The only prior meeting between the claims representative and the attorney occurred January 11, 1972, and no evidence was introduced to show what was then said.

The claim was filed about three weeks after attorney Skinner learned of Northup's death. No argument is made that he or claimant lacked diligence after they learned of the death.

At the time the claim was filed, the Northup estate was open and solvent. In fact, administration of the estate was far from complete. Essential tax clearances had not yet been obtained. The federal estate tax closing letter and final inheritance tax receipt were not filed until almost a year later.

The trial court held claimant failed to establish diligence or excuse for lack of diligence entitling her to equitable relief under the statute. The court sustained the executor's motion to dismiss the claim. The motion to dismiss the petition was later submitted and also sustained.

Appeal was taken separately by Leota P. Hamlin from both rulings. Since the proceedings involve the same issue, the appeals have been consolidated and submitted together.

Our review is at law. In re Estate of Zimmerman, 160 N.W.2d 502, 504 (Iowa 1968). Trial court findings of fact are binding upon us if supported by substantial evidence, but we are not bound by trial court determinations of law. We are not precluded from inquiry into whether the trial court applied erroneous rules of law which materially affected...

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12 cases
  • Flexsteel Industries, Inc. v. Morbern Industries Ltd., 57175
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 17, 1976
    ...of law drawn therefrom is correct, * * *.' Whewell v. Dobson, 227 N.W.2d 115, 117 (Iowa 1975). See also In Re Estate of Northup, 230 N.W.2d 918, 921 (Iowa Since the trial court made a finding defendant failed to account for the delay the conclusion is inescapable in the present case it appl......
  • Westhoff v. American Interinsurance Exchange, 57853
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 16, 1977
    ...bound by trial court determinations. Flexsteel Ind., Inc. v. Morbern Ind. Ltd., 239 N.W.2d 593, 596 (Iowa 1976); In re Estate of Northup, 230 N.W.2d 918, 921 (Iowa I. In this division plaintiffs' first and third contentions will be considered together. In essence, it is argued the 'other in......
  • Baldwin v. City of Waterloo, 84-1470
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 31, 1985
    ...not de novo, and the district court's fact-finding will be affirmed if supported by substantial evidence. See In re Estate of Northrup, 230 N.W.2d 918, 921 (Iowa 1975); In re Claim of Gwynne v. Vance, 258 Iowa 875, 877, 140 N.W.2d 917, 918-19 (1966); Rindfleisch v. Mundt Estate, 247 Iowa 11......
  • Kurtenbach v. TeKippe, 59409
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 23, 1977
    ...from inquiry into whether the trial court applied erroneous rules of law which materially affected its decision. In re Estate of Northup, 230 N.W.2d 918, 921 (Iowa Kurtenbach was a New Hampton entrepreneur who held an Iowa securities sales license. TeKippe was a New Hampton lawyer who had b......
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