Hong Truong v. Trang Huynh

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA No. 21-1657 Filed October 19, 2022 HONG TRUONG, Plaintiff-Appellant, vs. TRANG HUYNH, Defendant-Appellee. ________________________________________________________________ Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Tod Deck, Judge. A plaintiff appeals the district court ruling denying her claim for damages from an alleged oral contract. AFFIRMED. Jessica A. Board of Heidman Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Sioux City, for appellant. Randy Hisey (until withdrawal) and Trang Huynh, Sioux City, self- represented appellee. Considered by Ahlers, P.J., and Badding and Chicchelly, JJ. 2 CHICCHELLY, Judge. Hong Truong appeals the district court ruling denying her claim for damages from an alleged oral contract with Trang Huynh. Hong argues the district court erred in relying on the testimony of a non-party witness and that its findings conflicted with the substantial evidence of the case. Finding no error of law, we affirm the court’s ruling. I. Background Facts and Proceedings. Hong and Trang met within the last several years at their mutual workplace. Hong contends that she loaned money to Trang on four occasions. The first alleged loan involved approximately $3300 and was repaid in full. Hong maintains that, over the course of three subsequent dates, she gave Trang cash totaling $97,400 with the understanding that Trang would repay her in full and without interest. Hong believed the money was intended to purchase and insure vehicles for Trang’s children. She expected Trang to repay her with life insurance money that was anticipated from the death of Trang’s mother. After several months passed without any repayment, Hong wrote up a document to memorialize the loan, which was admitted at trial as exhibit 1. She explained that Trang came to her home, read the document, and signed it. A friend of Hong’s testified that she signed the document as a witness. However, the friend stated that she did not actually see Trang sign the document because she was in a different vehicle and “Hong did not want me to come out because if Trang saw me, she would not sign.” Hong also shared a recording of a phone conversation she had with Trang, in which Hong stated, “You owe me money, for a total of $97,400 is that right Ms. Trang?” and Trang replied, “That’s right. If I get a job I’ll 3 pay you back . . . .”1 Hong ultimately brought an action against Trang in district court seeking payment for the alleged loan. Trang testified that she never borrowed money from Hong but they played a game of tontine—or hui, as it is known in the Vietnamese community. She indicated that Hong told her she won approximately $3000 in the game, but she received significantly less than that and paid it all back. Trang also testified that she is illiterate and that it was not her signature on the document Hong presented to memorialize the alleged loan. She stated that she received money after her mother’s death in 2016 and that she bought vehicles for her children in 2016 and …

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