Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Recent News
Home / Opinions / Court of Appeals / Court of Appeals Digest: June 6, 2022

Court of Appeals Digest: June 6, 2022

Civil Nonprecedential



Veil Piercing

Appellant agreed to buy six agricultural supply stores in Illinois and Iowa, representing that the two companies he formed to complete the purchase were financially able to close the deal. Contrary to his assurances, the two companies were insolvent and unable to meet the financial obligations necessary to close the deal. The District Court found appellant and his companies jointly and severally liable for breaching the contracts and fraud. Appellant and his companies challenged the District Court’s judgment against them for fraud and its decision to pierce the corporate veil. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not clearly err by finding that respondent relied on appellant’s financial-viability assurances independent of the contracted financial-viability commitment, and the District Court acted within its discretion by piercing the corporate veil. Affirmed.

A21-1471 FKS Enters., Inc. v. Whebbe (Hennepin County)



Domestic Relations

Child Support; Retroactivity

In this child-support dispute, appellant argued that the District Court erred by (1) awarding retroactive child support below the presumptively appropriate child-support amount; (2) improperly setting the effective date of her past-support award; and (3) awarding respondent attorney fees. By notice of related appeal, respondent cross-appellant argued that the District Court erred by awarding appellant retroactive child support. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by awarding respondent conduct-based attorney fees, but the District Court lacked a statutory basis to award appellant retroactive child support. Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

A21-0921 S.A. v. L.H. (Todd County)


Domestic Relations

Dissolution; Antenuptial Agreements

In this marital dissolution dispute, appellant-husband challenged the District Court’s decision that, under the parties’ antenuptial agreement, respondent-wife was entitled to half the amount in each of their five joint accounts. The Court of Appeals found no ambiguity in the agreement and concluded that it provided for this division of joint accounts. Affirmed.

A21-1279 Feneis v. Feneis (Stearns County)



Domestic Relations

Dissolution; Attorney Fees

In this post-dissolution dispute, appellant, a licensed attorney, challenged the District Court’s order awarding attorney fees to respondent, arguing that the District Court (1) does not have the inherent authority to award attorney fees based on conduct occurring outside of a proceeding; (2) made findings not supported by the record; and (3) erred by awarding all the fees claimed without making adequate findings on the reasonableness of the fees. The Court of Appeals concluded that it is within the District Court’s discretion to use its inherent authority to award attorney fees as a sanction for conduct that occurred outside of the litigation process, and the District Court’s finding of a bad-faith basis to justify the attorney-fee award was supported by the record. Affirmed.

A21-1549 Buckner v. Robichaud (Hennepin County)


Environmental Law

Environmental Impact Statements

In this certiorari appeal, relators challenged respondent township’s negative declaration on the need for an environmental-impact statement in relation to a residential-development project proposed by respondent that would transform 29 acres of undeveloped woodland into ten single-family homes. Given the highly deferential standard afforded a declarations, the Court of Appeals determined the township’s declaration was not based on errors of law and was not arbitrary, capricious, or unsupported by substantial evidence. Affirmed.

A21-1276 In re Env’t Impact Statement for Pavilion Estates Subdivision (Rochester Township)




Appellant insured sued respondent insurer seeking a declaratory judgment that appellant was entitled to preaward interest under Minn. Stat. § 549.09 based on an appraisal award of replacement cost value for fire damage to appellant’s home. Appellant argued the District Court erred by granting respondent’s motion for summary judgment and denying preaward interest based on language in appellant’s homeowner’s policy. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the relevant policy language was ambiguous and must be construed in favor of the insured, the policy does not exclude preaward interest under Minn. Stat. § 549.09 for an appraisal award of replacement cost value. Reversed and remanded.

A21-1587 Wesser v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. (Hennepin County)



Landlord & Tenant


Appellant-landlord challenged the District Court’s dismissal of its eviction action against respondents-tenants. Noting that, although landlord argued that videos proved that respondents behaved violently in an interaction with other tenants, the District Court found that the credible testimony of tenants’ witnesses showed that the other tenant instigated a fight and respondents merely defended themselves, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err in determining that respondents’ conduct was not a material breach of their lease. Affirmed.

A21-1134 Doran-CSM SE I LLC v. Stone (Hennepin County)




Late Fees

Pro se appellant appealed the District Court’s dismissal of his claims against respondent county for lack of jurisdiction due to appellant’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies under Minn. Stat. § 375.192, subd. 2. Appellant also argued that the District Court erred by denying his motion to amend his complaint to add a Fourteenth Amendment claim. Appellant brought the action after he was assessed a late fee of $19.60 on his property taxes. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant he failed to exhaust administrative remedies by seeking an abatement. Affirmed.

A21-1620 Scheffler v. Crow Wing County (Crow Wing County)



Unemployment Benefits


Relator challenged a decision by an unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that she was ineligible for unemployment benefits. Relator initially received benefits but, after her employment authorization document (EAD) expired, a ULJ determined relator was ineligible for benefits. In the interests of justice, the Court of Appeals considered for the first time that relator’s application for extension of her work authorization automatically extended her eligibility for unemployment benefits. Remanded.

A21-1442 In re Tesfaye (Dep’t of Emp’t & Econ. Dev.)




Criminal Nonprecedential


Plea Withdrawal

Manifest Injustice

In this direct appeal, defendant sought to vacate his convictions for domestic assault and first-degree assault of a peace officer, arguing that his guilty pleas were unintelligent, involuntary, the product of mutual mistake by the parties, the result of ineffective assistance of plea counsel, and the result of ineffective assistance of sentencing counsel. The Court of Appeals concluded that defendant’s guilty pleas were invalid because defendant entered into the plea agreement on the condition that he could request a downward dispositional departure, and such departures are prohibited by statute. Reversed and remanded.

A21-0803 State v. Kellen (Stearns County)


Search Warrants

Probable Cause

In 2019, petitioner was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition. In 2021, he petitioned for post-conviction relief on the ground that the search warrant that led to the discovery of the firearm and the ammunition was not supported by probable cause. The post-conviction court denied the petition. Noting the findings that an informant voluntarily provided information to police, that the informant’s basis of knowledge was demonstrated by his or her personal observation, and that the informant’s tip was corroborated by an officer, the Court of Appeals concluded that the search warrant was supported by probable cause. Affirmed.

A21-1376 Guy v. State (Hennepin County)




Reasonable, Articulable Suspicion

In this direct appeal from his conviction for driving while impaired (DWI), defendant challenged the District Court’s denial of his pretrial motions to dismiss and suppress evidence, arguing that police lacked reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing when defendant was seized and that police violated his right to the limited assistance of counsel when deciding whether to submit to a breath test. Noting that defendant set off a burglary alarm at a warehouse where he worked after hours, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was reasonable and articulable suspicion when law enforcement began an investigatory seizure. Affirmed.

A21-1551 State v. Christianson (Becker County)




Downward Departures

Defendant challenged his sentence for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion by refusing to grant downward dispositional and downward durational departures from the presumptive guidelines sentence based on evidence that he was amenable to probation and that his conduct was less serious than that typically involved in the commission of the crime for which he was convicted. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court acted within its discretion in finding that defendant’s conduct was not significantly less serious than the typical offense and that no substantial or compelling circumstances existed that warranted a downward durational departure. Affirmed.

A21-1049 State v. Nohner (Scott County)



Traffic Stops

Expansion of Scope

In this pretrial appeal, the State argued that the District Court erred by suppressing evidence after determining that officers (1) unreasonably expanded the traffic stop to search the vehicle for drug-related activity, and (2) conducted an unreasonable pat search of respondent. Noting that the officers saw what appeared to be marijuana in the cup-holder area of the car’s console and could smell burnt marijuana coming from inside the car, the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence, when viewed from an objective standard, showed that the officers had probable cause to search the vehicle for drug-related activity and pat search respondent for weapons before placing him in the squad car during the search. Reversed.

A21-1540 State v. Grissom (Ramsey County)

Leave a Reply