April 2018

April 2018

A Completely New Partition Law is Coming to Iowa July 1

An entirely renovated Iowa partition law will go into effect on July 1, 2018. On April 11, 2018, Governor Reynolds signed SF 2175 into law. This new law reorganizes and replaces the current Iowa Code chapter 651 and integrates many provisions from the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure (Division XII), which currently govern partition actions in Iowa. Notably, SF 2175 creates a new partition procedure for “heirs property.” It also authorizes the equitable remedy of “owelty,” a payment of money allowed to equalize the value of property received in a partition in kind action. The new Iowa Code chapter 651 means that a tenant in common not wanting to sell the family farm will likely not be forced to do so. For many of these properties, a buyout or a partition in kind will now be the favored disposition if another cotenant seeks a partition by sale.

Iowa’s partition law, as it applies to family farms, has been in the spotlight since the end of 2016, when the Iowa Supreme Court decided Newhall v. Roll, 888 N.W.2d 636 (Iowa 2016). This opinion illustrated that it’s very hard to get a partition in kind in Iowa. Unlike most other states, Iowa is “unequivocal in favoring partition by sale." Id. at 640. The Newhall case involved two siblings who inherited family land as tenants in common. The land included two separate tracts in separate counties. One 315-acre tract included the “home place” and the other comprised 163 acres of farmland.

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Recent Cases Find CWA Jurisdiction over Point Source Discharges Passing through Groundwater

On April 12, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated a district court’s judgment and held that a discharge that passed from a point source through groundwater to navigable waters could support a Clean Water Act (CWA) claim. The Fourth Circuit in Upstate Forever v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., became the second federal court of appeals to make such a ruling in 2018. The first was the Ninth Circuit in Haw. Wildlife Fund v. Cnty of Maui. These cases, in addition to the EPA’s recent request for comments regarding this issue, signal a recent push for certainty on the long-time question as to whether indirect discharges from point sources, through groundwater, and into navigable water are subject to regulation under the CWA.

The facts of Upstate Forever were straightforward. In 2014, a gasoline pipeline owned by a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan ruptured, causing approximately 369,000 gallons of gasoline to spill. Although the company repaired the pipeline, all parties agreed that the leaked gasoline had seeped into groundwater and continued to contaminate navigable waters 1,000 feet or less from the pipeline.  

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Corn Farmers May Begin Filing Claims in Syngenta Settlement Next Month

Judge Lungstrum granted preliminary approval for the $1.51 billion Syngenta settlement on April 10, 2018. This means that formal notice will be mailed to class members on May 11, 2018, at which time the formal claims process will begin. Corn producers and landlords who are members of the class will be able to go online to www.cornseedsettlement.com to file their claims. If they do not have internet access, they will be able to call 1-833-567-2676 to request a paper claim form. All claims must be submitted by October 12, 2018.

Although all members of the class must file a claim by October 12, 2018, to preserve their right to a future payment, the settlement is still provisional or preliminary because Syngenta will have a limited opportunity to walk away by October 10, 2018, after receiving the final opt-out list, and the Court must determine, after all claims have been filed, whether the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. The final approval hearing, after which the court would issue its final approval order, is scheduled for November 15, 2018. That date, however, could be changed without notice to the class.

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