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Court of Appeals Digest: June 13, 2022

Civil Precedential


Landlord & Tenant


Tenant appealed the District Court’s judgment of recovery in favor of landlord, arguing that the District Court erred because tenant disputed the allegations in landlord’s complaint and the District Court issued factual findings and legal conclusions without conducting a trial.

The Court of Appeals held that, in an eviction action filed pursuant to Minn. Stat. ch. 504B, a tenant is entitled to a trial, like in other civil actions, when material facts are in dispute. Here, the District Court made factual findings and legal conclusions without first receiving evidence. Reversed and remanded.

A21-1445 NY Props., LLC v. Schuette (Stearns County)



Civil Nonprecedential


Domestic Relations

Child Protection; Indian Children

In this juvenile-protection appeal, appellants challenged the District Court’s denial of their motion seeking adoptive placement of an Indian child and asserting that the county was unreasonable in failing to make the requested adoptive placement. Appellants argued that the District Court erred by denying their motion without an evidentiary hearing and that, in reaching its decision, the District Court misapplied the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA) in two ways: (1) by failing to recognize appellants as relatives of the child and failing to give them preference as the adoptive placement, and (2) by determining that there was good cause to deviate from the adoptive placement preferences in ICWA and MIFPA. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not misapply ICWA or MIFPA, and it did not otherwise abuse its discretion when it denied appellants’ motion. Affirmed.

A21-1660 In re Welfare of Child of K.M.-A.R.-L. (Olmsted County)


Domestic Relations

Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights

Appellant-father challenged the termination of his parental rights to two children, arguing that (1) the District Court misapplied the standard for rebutting the presumption of palpable unfitness and erroneously determined that appellant had not rebutted the presumption; (2) the District Court relied on improper factors when it determined that termination was in the children’s best interests; and (3) judicial bias and attorney misconduct denied him a fair trial. Noting the findings that until the time of the trial, appellant denied the past physical abuse, continued to minimize or deflect blame for his past conduct, and failed to engage in meaningful therapy to address his unresolved mental health issues, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err in determining that appellant was palpably unfit. Affirmed.

A22-0015 In re Children of S.L.L. (Wright County)


Domestic Relations

Dissolution; Marital Property

A judgment and decree dissolving the marriage of appellant-husband and respondent-wife awarded the couple’s farmland and toy tractors to appellant and declined to add the proceeds of a previously issued cashier’s check to the marital estate. In this cross-appeal, husband challenged the District Court’s refusal to consider the future tax consequences that would arise from his later selling the farmland. And wife argued that the District Court should have awarded her half the farmland, half the value of the cashier’s check, and toy tractors belonging to the parties’ deceased son. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in any of the challenged decisions. Affirmed.

A21-1263 Fowler v. Fowler (Fillmore County)




Underinsured Motorist Benefits

This was an underinsured motorist benefits action arising from injuries to an insured’s 20-year-old stepdaughter. Appellants challenged the District Court’s grant of summary judgment for respondent insurer and its denial of summary judgment for appellants. Appellants argued, among other things, that the District Court improperly weighed evidence and made credibility determinations and therefore erred by denying coverage under the resident relative provision of the stepfather’s automobile policy. The Court of Appeals concluded that genuine issues of material fact about whether stepdaughter was a resident relative of insured’s household at the time of the accident, precluding summary judgment. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A21-1267 Progressive Ins. v. Abel (Clay County)



Judicial Estoppel

Inconsistent Positions

Appellant challenged summary judgment dismissing his product-liability claims against respondents medical-device manufacturers based on judicial estoppel. He argued that (1) judicial estoppel is not available under Minnesota law, and (2) the requirements for judicial estoppel were not met in this case. The Court of Appeals concluded that judicial estoppel is an available doctrine, but that the District Court misapplied the law regarding judicial estoppel, as Minnesota caselaw applying the doctrine had been called into doubt, and the District Court failed to consider whether appellant’s prior inconsistent position was based on inadvertence or mistake. Reversed and remanded.

A21-1396 Parks v. Covidien Holdings, Inc. (Anoka County)





After farming together as partners for forty years, brothers tasked the District Court with dissolving their partnership. On appeal, they challenged the court’s division of their partnership’s property. Petitioner-brother argued that the court did not award him enough money, while respondent-brother contended that the court improperly confirmed a third-party neutral’s award and abused its discretion by finding that he acted in bad faith. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court equitably divided the partnership’s property, and the record supported the District Court’s bad faith-conduct finding. Affirmed.

A21-1313, A21-1320 O’Connor v. O’Connor (Rice County)



Real Estate

Specific Performance

Appellant-personal representative challenged the District Court’s order directing specific performance of a real estate sale based on a purchase agreement which had been executed by the decedent and respondent. Noting that the uncontradicted facts showed that decedent agreed to a closing date beyond the 30-day contract-extension and, but for his disappearance, would have closed on that day, the Court of Appeals concluded that decedent waived the time-is-of-the-essence clause and respondent timely sought specific performance. Affirmed.

A21-1151 In re Estate of McCoy (Traverse County)



Criminal Precedential


Criminal Trespass


A teenaged boy returned to a grocery store two months after one police officer told him that he was “officially trespassed” and another attempted but failed to hand the teen a formal notice advising him not to return for a specific period. The state charged him with and the District Court found him guilty of criminal trespass and stayed adjudication. The youth appealed from the finding, arguing that he had not effectively been “told to leave the property and not to return,” which is the statutory prerequisite to a trespass violation.

The Court of Appeals held that (1) a police officer’s oral declaration to an unwelcome visitor on private property, “You’re officially trespassed,” does not meet the trespass-notice requirement of Minn. Stat. § 609.605, subd. 1(b)(8), which predicates a trespass violation on the alleged trespasser’s having been previously “told to leave the property and not to return”; and (2) a police officer’s refused attempt to hand-deliver a written notice informing an unwelcome visitor to leave a property and not return does not satisfy the trespass-notice “told” requirement of Minn. Stat. § 609.605, subd. 1(b)(8). Reversed.

A21-1264 In re Welfare of A.A.D., Jr. (Hennepin County)




Criminal Nonprecedential


Domestic Assault


Petitioner challenged the postconviction court’s denial of his petition for relief, arguing that his conviction for domestic assault must be reversed because the state failed to prove that he did not act in self-defense. The Court of Appeals concluded that the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion, noting that the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to disprove an absence of aggression or provocation by defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Affirmed.

A21-1645 Hassan v. State (Olmsted County)



Failure to Register

Sufficiency of the Evidence

Defendant argued that his conviction for intentionally providing a false address on a sex offender registration form should be overturned because the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, a Blakely violation occurred, and his speedy-trial right was violated. The Court of Appeals concluded that evidence that defendant provided a false address on a “BCA Change of Information Form” was sufficient to support the finding that defendant provided false information to the BCA, and that defendant’s admission that he never lived at that address and did not intend to reside at that address after his release supported the finding of his intent. Furthermore, although a Blakely violation occurred, the error was harmless, and no violation of defendant’s right to a speedy trial occurred. Affirmed.

A21-0975 State v. Matusovic (Goodhue County)



Probation Revocation

Remain Law Abiding

Defendant was on probation in South Dakota in 2018 for a 2016 Minnesota drug-possession and first-degree drunk-driving conviction when his South Dakota probation officer reported four probation violations. Despite a nationwide Minnesota warrant for defendant’s return to Minnesota for the alleged violations, defendant was arrested, charged, and sentenced in South Dakota for felony assault but not returned to Minnesota until 2021, when he was arrested for crimes in North Dakota. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court acted within its discretion when it revoked defendant’s probation for failing to remain law abiding and failing to maintain contact with his probation officer. Affirmed.

A21-1593 State v. Barse (Itasca County)




Jail Credit

In this appeal from a probation-revocation decision, defendant argued that the District Court erred by denying him custody credit for time spent in custody between the date of his offense and the date his probation was revoked. The Court of Appeals concluded that defendant’s time in custody was in connection with the offense and awarding custody credit promoted the fairness and equity of the sentencing guidelines without violating any guideline provisions. Reversed and remanded.

A21-1437 State v. Schultz (Blue Earth County)


Warrantless Searches

Automobile Exception

Defendant challenged his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm, arguing that the District Court erred by denying his motion to suppress the firearm, which was discovered during a warrantless vehicle search. Law enforcement issued defendant a citation for an open-container violation after observing an open container of beer in his center console. While searching the vehicle, officers discovered the shotgun inside a plastic bag on the passenger seat. The Court of Appeals concluded that, given the plastic bag’s proximity to defendant and the open beer in his center console, as well as the bag’s potential for concealing additional alcohol containers, law enforcement did not exceed the scope of their search by inspecting the contents of the plastic bag that contained the firearm. Affirmed.

A21-0995 State v. Castillo (Carver County)

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