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Henkel v. Pontiac Farmers Grain Co.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 30, 1977.

LEO L. HENKEL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

PONTIAC FARMERS GRAIN CO., INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Livingston County; the Hon. DARRELL H. RENO, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This appeal comes to us as a result of a judgment in favor of the defendant in a small claim proceeding in the circuit court of Livingston County. The matter was heard as a bench trial and no transcript was made other than certain tape recordings. While this has complicated our review, we have been furnished with a reasonably accurate abstract prepared by the defendant-appellee, together with excerpts from the tapes prepared by the plaintiff-appellant.

Plaintiff was the owner of extensive farm lands and they were tilled by his tenant on a 50-50 crop-share basis. During the harvest season of the autumn and early winter of 1972-1973, plaintiff and his tenant had a dispute concerning certain expenses of harvesting which the tenant claimed were due to him from plaintiff.

In October 1972, the tenant began making deliveries of grain from plaintiff's lands to the defendant. A schedule of these deliveries is as follows.

October, 1972 1309.33 bu. beans December 20, 1972 553.33 bu. beans February 9, 1973 925.33 bu. beans February 17, 1973 6129.00 bu. beans

November, 1972 2386.42 bu. corn January, 1973 3613.21 bu. corn December, 1972 1293.92 bu. corn January, 1973 1656.78 bu. corn January, 1973 2123.21 bu. corn February, 1973 3872.50 bu. corn February, 1973 1153.21 bu. corn

According to defendant's manager, these were deliveries of the total crop, both landlord and tenant shares.

While it is not absolutely clear from the record, the evidence appears to be that plaintiff's share was delivered to defendant for sale, not for storage. Again, according to defendant's manager, payment to plaintiff for each delivery would have been due a day or two following the delivery and all payments due by March 1, 1973.

As indicated above, a dispute existed between plaintiff and his tenant (Everett Dronenberg) over certain expenses, and on January 18, 1973, the tenant caused a letter written by his attorney to be served on defendant. The text of that letter reads as follows:

"This is to notify you that Mr. Everett Dronenberg claims a lien upon crops harvested by him on behalf of Rev. Leo Henkel for 1074 bushels of grain harvested from the following described property:

The Southwest Quarter of Section 5, Township 28, Range 6 East of the Third Principal Meridian, Livingston County, Illinois.

Mr. Dronenberg's claim results from Rev. Henkel's refusal to reimburse him for expenses in combining and harvesting said crops and amounts to $1,470.00 plus interest and costs. Consequently, on behalf of Mr. Dronenberg we hereby demand that you withhold payment to Rev. Henkel for the delivery of said crops until such time as Rev. Henkel makes proper reimbursement to our client."

On January 20, 1973, another letter was served on defendant stating that the lien claim of January 18, 1973, was in error and "should have read 11,074 bushels of corn and 1800 bushels of soybeans."

As a result of these notices, defendant withheld payment to plaintiff of all funds until July 5, 1973, when it paid over $27,338.64, and ...


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