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Marroquin v. Marroquin

Court of Appeals of Utah

March 14, 2019

Heather Marroquin, Appellant,
Renson Amilicar Marroquin, Appellee.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Robert P. Faust No. 144903963

          Steve S. Christensen and Clinton R. Brimhall, Attorneys for Appellant

          James H. Woodall and Deborah L. Bulkeley, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate Appleby and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.


          HAGEN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 In 2005, Heather and Renson Marroquin were married. Prior to the marriage, Renson owned and operated a vending machine business.[1] After Heather filed for divorce in 2014, the value of that business became a central question in valuing the marital estate and distributing its assets. On appeal, Heather challenges the district court's valuation of the business, its failure to impose a due date or interest rate for payment of her half of the marital assets, and its denial of her motion to amend its findings and for a new trial. Because we conclude the district court did not exceed its discretion with respect to any of the issues raised by Heather on appeal, we affirm.


         ¶2 Before marrying Heather in 2005, Renson founded Deluxe Vending LLC and now owns a 99% interest in that company.[2]Deluxe Vending operates eighty-seven vending machines and three "micro-markets"[3] in numerous locations throughout Salt Lake City, Utah. For the first year of their marriage, and two summers following that, Heather helped Renson stock the vending machines throughout the day and count the money collected. Once she completed her education, Heather obtained other employment, but she continued to "help [Deluxe Vending] sporadically as needed or as requested."

         ¶3 Renson managed and conducted all of Deluxe Vending's business operations and had no other employees. He established personal relationships with the property owners, which allowed him to continue to operate his vending machines and micro-markets at their respective locations. Most of Deluxe Vending's contracts are on a month-to-month basis and can be replaced by other vendors at any time after the monthly contract ends.

         ¶4 In 2014, Heather filed for divorce. The primary issue at the parties' divorce trial was the value of Deluxe Vending and division of its assets. Each party obtained his or her own expert to testify to the business's value. Heather's expert is a certified public accountant who had "no credentials in the area of business valuation." Heather's expert initially valued Deluxe Vending between $725, 000 and $900, 000 but increased "his estimate to a range of $1, 229, 317 to $1, 530, 803" just before trial by using an "income approach to value the business," which includes "goodwill associated with the business." At trial, Heather's expert reduced his estimated value of Deluxe Vending to $700, 000.

         ¶5 Renson's expert is a certified public accountant, with accreditations in business valuation and as a senior appraiser. He "devotes approximately 75% of his practice to performing business valuations and testifying as an expert." Following accepted industry practices of using the net asset approach, Renson's expert valued Deluxe Vending at $152, 937. The value was determined by subtracting the fair market value of liabilities from the fair market value of assets and then subtracting "between a 5 and 10 percent marketability discount." In this case, Renson's expert "went on the low end and took [a] 5 percent" discount. Renson's expert opined that Deluxe Vending did not have any "institutional goodwill," but only personal or professional goodwill attributed solely to Renson. The expert explained that, "without the relationships that exist for the places where the vending machines are located, there is no potential for goodwill. There's no income earning capacity that would be in excess of the value of the assets." At trial, Renson's expert testified that Heather's expert was unreliable and opined that he "failed to follow accepted industry practices, that he relied on inaccurate information, and that he made unreasonable assumptions."

         ¶6 In its findings of fact, the court rejected Heather's expert's valuation and found Renson's expert to be more credible. It found that the business was worth $152, 937, awarded Deluxe Vending to Renson, and ordered him to pay Heather "one-half of the value, or $76, 468.50." The court also awarded alimony to Heather and divided the equity of certain personal property in half. The court entered the divorce decree consistent with those findings of fact.

         ¶7 Heather filed a motion to amend the court's findings of fact or for a new trial (the post-judgment motion). In the post-judgment motion, Heather argued that the court erred in determining the value of Deluxe Vending because Renson testified at trial that some of the business's liabilities had been paid off since Renson's expert prepared the valuation report. Relatedly, she argued that the court should amend its findings to account for the institutional goodwill of the business rather than attribute the goodwill solely to Renson. Heather asked the court to set a date for Renson's payment to Heather for one-half the value of Deluxe Vending and the personal property award. She also asked the court to make findings "regarding Renson's dissipation of marital funds." Finally, she requested a new trial "because the court's method of ruling was irregular and surprising."

         ¶8 The court found that the post-judgment motion was Heather's "attempt[] to modify and add additional terms that were not presented as evidence at trial nor were they presented when [she] was given an additional opportunity to provide information to the Court due to lack of information and evidence at trial." Based on her "failure to provide the information as directed within the time frames set, the Court was left with only the information provided at trial upon which to make a determination." The court therefore denied the post-judgment motion.

         ¶9 Heather appeals.


         ¶10 Heather raises three principal issues on appeal. First, Heather claims that the district court's valuation of Deluxe Vending was clearly erroneous in two respects. She contends the court erroneously determined that any goodwill associated with Deluxe Vending was personal to Renson. Relatedly, she contends the court erred in accepting the appraisal value assigned by Renson's expert to Deluxe Vending several months before trial given that Renson testified at trial that the liabilities had been reduced. A district court is "entitled to a presumption of validity in its assessment and evaluation of evidence," and we defer to the district court's "findings of fact related to property valuation and distribution unless they are clearly erroneous." Taft v. Taft, 2016 UT App 135, ...

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