Feuding pig farmers must try mediation before suing

Legal News Line Dec. 15, 2006, 6:56am

Iowa Chief Justice Marsha K. Temus

DES MOINES - A minor dispute between two hog farmers escalated to the point that the Iowa Supreme Court quoted 19th-Century humorist Ambrose Bierce in its ruling today in Klinge vs. Bentien (#111 / 04-0843). The two farmers initially sued each other for a failed pig farming venture in small claims court. Klinge sought $3,000 and Bentien $5,000, and the court granted both. Klinge appealed to the District Court, which threw the case out but left Klinge's $3,000 judgment in place. Bentien's attorney later informed the District Court that it lacked jurisdiction because the farmers had not sought mediation as required by law. The Supreme Court consequently reversed the first two rulings, quoting a legislative requirement that "farm residents" get a mediation release from the Farm Mediation Service before filing a lawsuit. Because Klinge did not do so, the Supreme Court ruled, "the small claims court lacked jurisdiction" to hear the farmers' claims. The ruling opened with a quote from Bierce describing litigation as "[a] machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage."

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