Podraza v. City of Carter Lake, No. 93-885

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtSNELL
Citation524 N.W.2d 198
PartiesArlynda PODRAZA, Appellee, v. The CITY OF CARTER LAKE, An Iowa Municipality, and Gerald Waltrip, As Mayor of the City of Carter Lake, Appellants.
Decision Date23 November 1994
Docket NumberNo. 93-885

Page 198

524 N.W.2d 198
Arlynda PODRAZA, Appellee,
v.
The CITY OF CARTER LAKE, An Iowa Municipality, and Gerald Waltrip, As Mayor of the City of Carter Lake, Appellants.
No. 93-885.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Nov. 23, 1994.

Page 199

Michael J. O'Bradovich, Council Bluffs, for appellants.

Drew H. Kouris, Council Bluffs, for appellee.

Considered by HARRIS, P.J., and LARSON, CARTER, SNELL, and ANDREASEN, JJ.

SNELL, Justice.

This is an appeal from a jury verdict awarding damages to plaintiff Arlynda Podraza for wrongful removal of her privacy fence. Compensatory damages were awarded against the City of Carter Lake and compensatory and punitive damages against Gerald Waltrip. We affirm.

I. Factual Background

In October of 1989, Podraza purchased a home located within the bounds of the Carter Lake Club in Carter Lake, Iowa. At the time she purchased the residence, a chain-link fence surrounded it. The fence had been present at the location for at least thirty years and was in need of repair. Although Podraza believed the fence stood within the boundaries of her property, she was aware the fence was located on a city right-of-way which ran from the edge of a nearby boardwalk into her property for nine and one-half feet. The fence stood about one foot from the boardwalk.

Podraza decided to replace the old fence with a wooden privacy fence in part because she owned several large dogs and was concerned about children sticking their fingers through the chain links. Before beginning the new fence, Podraza obtained an application at the Carter Lake City Hall for permission to build a six-foot privacy fence. After a hearing on the matter, the board of adjustment unanimously approved the application. Podraza subsequently paid a fee and received a signed and stamped permit to build the fence.

She began construction of the new wood fence on April 7, 1990 and continued work on it the next day. Unable to finish the fence on April 8, Podraza and her workers decided to continue work during the weekend of April 21 and 22. Podraza estimated that the fence was two-thirds completed at the end of April 8.

On April 17, a Carter Lake police officer went to Podraza's home and delivered to her a letter from the Mayor of Carter Lake, Gerald Waltrip. The letter ordered her to cease construction on the fence because the board of adjustment had erred in granting her the permit to erect it. At trial, Podraza testified that she believed Waltrip did not

Page 200

like her since he was a friend of her ex-husband and former mother-in-law.

In response to the mayor's action, Podraza attended a meeting of the Carter Lake City Council to request approval of a variance. At the April 25, 1990 meeting of the city council, the members reached a tie vote on the matter of Podraza's variance. She attended a subsequent May 9, 1990 meeting, and in this session, the council approved the variance by a vote of four to one.

Waltrip vetoed this city council resolution and a number of other resolutions which the council passed in favor of fences in the area. Waltrip then established a committee to study the fence situation in the country club area. Podraza testified that her former mother-in-law was one of the members of this committee and Podraza believed this adversely affected her chances of gaining approval from the committee.

On October 10, 1990, the committee reported that it would not approve Podraza's fence. The city council acted in accordance with the committee's decision and failed to approve the fence on this occasion but informed Podraza that she could have it if she placed it back on her own property. However, Waltrip vetoed the council's allowance of the fence even on Podraza's own property and the council subsequently sustained the veto.

In January of 1991, the City of Carter Lake passed an ordinance which stated that all existing fences could remain but required that any party seeking to build a new fence on any utility right-of-way or in the boardwalk area obtain permission from the city council. Podraza believed that this ordinance sanctioned the existence of her new fence, so she proceeded to complete it in July of 1991.

After learning of Podraza's activities, Waltrip telephoned her and told her that she was forbidden from having the fence. Shortly thereafter, city workers and police arrived at the scene intending to pull down the fence. The city workers brought a backhoe, truck, and at least one shovel which they intended to use to tear down the fence. Podraza testified that the chief of police, who she believed disliked her, informed her that neither the police nor any of the city workers brought any documents with them because such documents were not necessary.

Podraza stood in front of the fence, blocking the city workers, and the police informed her that if she continued to interfere, they would arrest her. Podraza testified that the police threatened to shoot her dogs if they got loose when the workers tore down the fence. While her cousin and brother stood between the workers and the fence, she went into her home and called a local television station and her attorney. This confrontation came to a peaceful end after Podraza's attorney and the city attorney spoke to each other and agreed to meet and consider the situation.

Podraza's attorney subsequently informed her that he and Waltrip had reached an agreement. Under this agreement, Waltrip stated that he would not interfere with Podraza's efforts if she could get two-thirds of her neighbors to sign a petition approving her fence and if she thereafter obtained approval from the board of adjustment. The agreement further required her to present the petition to the city council for consideration. Podraza testified that she was able to get substantially all of her neighbors to sign the petition. Her former mother-in-law, also a neighbor, was one individual who refused to sign.

After Podraza had acquired the signatures, Waltrip decided he would not honor the agreement because Podraza had had young children pass the petition from door to door. Waltrip felt he could ignore the agreement because he believed that its terms required that Podraza personally pass the petition around the neighborhood.

Despite Podraza's petition, Waltrip told city workers to go to her home and remove the fence. He also told the chief of police to go along to maintain law and order. On August 21, 1991 a city worker came to Podraza's door and informed her that under the authority of the city, he and a crew would begin tearing down the fence in one hour. The workers began tearing down the fence and Podraza attempted to stop them but the police officer told her that he would arrest her if she interfered. The workers proceeded

Page 201

to tear down the west side of the fence. After cutting down the fence with a chain saw, the workers took the torn-down portion, other than the gate, to a city impound lot. Podraza testified that neither the police nor the workers carried any documentation when they tore the fence into several sections, and the chief of police appeared to be in charge of the operation.

In February 1992, without notice to Podraza, city...

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16 practice notes
  • Dunne v. Res. Converting, LLC, No. 19-2982
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • March 17, 2021
    ...does not depend on an award of compensatory damages, but rather depends on a showing of actual damages." Podraza v. City of Carter Lake, 524 N.W.2d 198, 203 (Iowa 1994) ; see also Pringle Tax Serv., Inc. v. Knoblauch, 282 N.W.2d 151, 154 (Iowa 1979) ("[A] failure to award actual damages wil......
  • Leonard ex rel. Meyer v. Behrens, No. 97-2191.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • October 13, 1999
    ...the jury. II. Scope of Review. Our scope of review is for correction of errors at law. Iowa R.App. P. 4; Podraza v. City of Carter Lake, 524 N.W.2d 198, 202 (Iowa 1994). We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and determine whether sufficient evidence existed to ......
  • Stewart v. Sisson, No. 04-1323.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 24, 2006
    ...for a motion for directed verdict which the movant did not place before the trial court.'" (quoting Podraza v. City of Carter Lake, 524 N.W.2d 198, 202 (Iowa 1994))). This constraint is based on fairness and provides the essential symmetry and balance to our judicial process.3 It is not for......
  • Mensink v. American Grain, No. 95-2104
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 21, 1997
    ...the verdict. We review a denial of a motion for a directed verdict for a correction of errors at law. Podraza v. City of Carter Lake, 524 N.W.2d 198, 202 (Iowa 1994). We review the evidence in the same light as the district court and determine whether a fact question was generated. Frunzar ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Dunne v. Res. Converting, LLC, No. 19-2982
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • March 17, 2021
    ...does not depend on an award of compensatory damages, but rather depends on a showing of actual damages." Podraza v. City of Carter Lake, 524 N.W.2d 198, 203 (Iowa 1994) ; see also Pringle Tax Serv., Inc. v. Knoblauch, 282 N.W.2d 151, 154 (Iowa 1979) ("[A] failure to award actual damages wil......
  • Leonard ex rel. Meyer v. Behrens, No. 97-2191.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • October 13, 1999
    ...the jury. II. Scope of Review. Our scope of review is for correction of errors at law. Iowa R.App. P. 4; Podraza v. City of Carter Lake, 524 N.W.2d 198, 202 (Iowa 1994). We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and determine whether sufficient evidence existed to ......
  • Stewart v. Sisson, No. 04-1323.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 24, 2006
    ...for a motion for directed verdict which the movant did not place before the trial court.'" (quoting Podraza v. City of Carter Lake, 524 N.W.2d 198, 202 (Iowa 1994))). This constraint is based on fairness and provides the essential symmetry and balance to our judicial process.3 It is not for......
  • Mensink v. American Grain, No. 95-2104
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 21, 1997
    ...the verdict. We review a denial of a motion for a directed verdict for a correction of errors at law. Podraza v. City of Carter Lake, 524 N.W.2d 198, 202 (Iowa 1994). We review the evidence in the same light as the district court and determine whether a fact question was generated. Frunzar ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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