Don't forget to respond to your opponent's arguments
Posted on 09/07/2016 at 12:00 AM by Mollie Pawlosky
The recent opinion in Slach v. Heick, No. 15-1460 (Ia. Ct. App., Aug. 17, 2016) reminds litigants of the dangers of not responding to an opponent’s argument and instead only focusing on your own evidence. Slach appears to be a relatively straightforward suit where Heick, the Slachs’ tenant, sued for damages from Slachs, arising from the Slachs’ plowing cornstalks on land they had leased to Heick. Heick won at trial before the district court, but Heick appealed, arguing that the district court failed to award sufficient damages.
Heick’s primary focus was that the district court awarded damages for 64 acres of cornstalks that had been wrongfully plowed, which Heick claimed should be increased to 84 acres. Heick claimed that there was substantial evidence to support 84 acres of damages; however, the Court of Appeals ruled that “the ultimate question is whether the evidence supports the court’s findings, not whether it would support a different finding.” Thus, on appeal, the Court of Appeals would not reexamine the evidence to see if the evidence supported a different finding; rather, the appellate court’s review was only to determine if the trial court’s findings were supported.
Evidence supporting the district court’s finding included a conservation plan and map, showing the need to refrain from plowing to the border, in order to allow for fence and tree removal, as well as testimony from Slach that Heick could have bailed the remaining border stocks, but chose not to. Heick did not dispute Slach’s testimony. Thus, the Court of Appeals ruled that there was substantial evidence to support the trial court’s conclusion.
Slach reminds litigants that although it is important to shore up your own case, it is also important to explain why your opponent’s position is wrong. On appeal, Heick needed to demonstrate not why 84 acres was right, but rather, why the evidence used to support the 64 acres was wrong. More importantly, before the trial court, Heick needed to have disputed Slach’s testimony, explaining why Heick could not have bailed the remaining border stalks.
For further information regarding damages calculations or commercial litigation, contact Mollie Pawlosky.
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