Friday, December 15, 2006

Farmers' Failure to Mediate Deprives Small Claims Court of Jurisdiction

Klinge v. Bentien, No. 04-0843 (Iowa Dec. 15, 2006).
Klinge and Bentien had an oral agreement concerning raising feeder pigs. Bentien bought the pigs and Bentien fed and raised them. Klinge sued Bentien in small claims court in Clayton County alleging insufficient compensation. Bentien countersued, arguing that Klinge's negligence caused a loss of 100 pigs. Neither party requested mediation under Iowa Code sec. 654B.

The small claims court entered judgment for both parties on both claims and counterclaims. Klinge appealed to the district court but Bentien did not. The district court dismissed Klinge's claim but since Bentien did not appear the court let the judgment stand.

Bentien then hired a lawyer. The next day the lawyer requested a dismissal, arguing that neither party had requested mediation as is required. The district court washed its hands of the entire matter, and this appeal followed.

The Supreme Court found that Iowa Code section 654B1 was applicable to the controversy. Therefore, Klinge's failure to file a mediation request and obtain a mediation release before filing his complaint deprived the small claims court of jurisdiction of the subject matter.

Section 654B.3 requires a 'farm resident' to file a request for mediation with the far mmediation service and obtain a release before filing suit if the matter involves a livestock 'care and feeding contract."


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