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Court of Appeals Digest: Jan. 9, 2023

Civil Nonprecedential

 

Breach of Contract

Conditions

This appeal concerned contractual disputes arising from three suburban residential developments. Noting that the evidence supported the District Court’s implied finding that respondent did not fail to timely complete its work on the project and did not fail to perform final inspections on the three projects, conditions precedent to receiving payment, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by finding that the developer breached three contracts by not making full payment to a contractor. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of approximately $100,000 on the contractor’s breach-of-contract claim against the developer as well as the District Court’s declaration that the contractor’s mechanic’s lien was valid. But it concluded that the District Court erred by finding that a financier of the development entered into an agreement with the contractor to guarantee the developer’s performance of its contractual obligations toward the contractor and reversed the District Court’s judgment of approximately $27,000 on the contractor’s breach-of-guaranty claim against the financier. Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

A22-0736 S.M. Hentges & Sons, Inc. v. Mark Elliot Homes, Inc. (Dakota County)

 

 

Contracts for Deed

Interpretation

In this appeal from partial final judgment entered under rule 54.02, appellants challenged the District Court’s grant of respondent-vendee’s motion for partial summary judgment on issues involving a contract for deed and the District Court’s denial of their motion for summary judgment. Appellants argued that the District Court erred in (1) interpreting the “purchase price” provision; (2) determining that appellants were responsible for ensuring that the property’s septic system complies with local regulations; and (3) denying appellants’ motion for summary judgment, which requested judicial termination of the parties’ contract for deed. The Court of Appeals concluded that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding both the amount owed under the “purchase price” provision and the responsibility for the septic system, but that appellants’ argument regarding judicial termination of the parties’ contract was forfeited. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A22-0673 Feltus v. Niemala (Itasca County)

 

 

Domestic Relations

Child Custody; Modification

In this custody-modification dispute, appellant-mother argued that the District Court erred by denying her requested relief without holding an evidentiary hearing under an endangerment-based modification standard pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(iv). Noting that father’s decision not to vaccinate the child against COVID-19 was a health-care determination within his authority as the child’s legal custodian, the Court of Appeals concluded that mother failed to make a prima facie showing that father’s medical decision endangered the child. Affirmed.

A22-0853 Waldron v. Garrett (Hennepin County)

 

Domestic Relations

Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights

On appeal from an order terminating his parental rights to two children, appellant-father challenged the District Court’s determinations that the county made reasonable efforts to reunify the family and that clear and convincing evidence supported terminating father’s parental rights on three statutory grounds. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the county made reasonable efforts and that at least one statutory ground supported termination of father’s parental rights. Affirmed.

A22-0719 In re Welfare of Children of M.H. (Hennepin County)

 

 

Employment

Termination

In this certiorari appeal, relator challenged a decision by respondent Hennepin Healthcare Systems, Inc. (HHS) to discharge her from her job as a paramedic. The Court of Appeals concluded that the decision to discharge relator was not arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, or unsupported by substantial evidence because relator was an at-will employee. Affirmed.

A22-0700 Brown v. Hennepin Healthcare Sys., Inc. (Hennepin Healthcare Sys., Inc.)

 

 

Injunctions

Irreparable Injury

In this business litigation dispute, appellant challenged a District Court order denying his motion for a temporary injunction to reinstate him to his corporate position. Appellant asserted that the District Court abused its discretion in applying the Dalhberg factors. Appellant claimed he suffered irreparable harm because he was removed from his corporate position and deprived of his right to have an equal say in how the company was run. Noting that appellant did not presented evidence supporting this claim, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion by denying a temporary injunction because appellant failed to show irreparable harm. Affirmed.

A22-1054 Malark v. Malark (Hennepin County)

 

 

Insurance

Coverage

Respondent-insurer brought a declaratory-judgment action to determine coverage under appellants’ insurance policies, and, following cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of respondent-insurer. Appellants argued that the District Court erred by determining that the policies’ definition of “bodily injury” precluded coverage for their negligence-related claims and that the policies’ intentional-acts exclusion precluded coverage for their defamation claim. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court properly determined that the negligence, vicarious liability, and negligent-supervision-of-a-minor claims were not covered by the policies because the sexual-misconduct provision did not require the subjective intent to act sexually and because respondent’s son’s conduct was the direct cause of the alleged harms. Affirmed.

A22-0784 N. Star Mut. Ins. Co. v. Erickson (Wadena County)

 

Real Property

Partition

Appellant and respondent ended their romantic relationship and began disputing possession of a residence they owned in joint tenancy. The unmarried parties had cohabitated in the home and shared household expenses for four years. The District Court resolved appellant’s action to quiet title by ordering the property partitioned. Appellant contested the result, arguing that the District Court should not have ordered the sale proceeds to be divided equally, should not have ordered the referee costs to be divided equally, and failed to meet its statutory duty to order a presale appraisal. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court acted within its discretion by ordering the equal division of sale proceeds and referee costs, and the applicable statute did not require the District Court to order a presale appraisal. Affirmed.

A22-0435 Simmons v. Mason (Hennepin County)

 

 

 

Criminal Nonprecedential

 

Burglary

Intent

Defendant challenged his conviction following a jury trial for one count of first-degree burglary, arguing primarily that the state presented insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to commit a crime while in a dwelling. The Court of Appeals concluded that evidence that defendant consumed some of the victim’s food while in his house was sufficient to prove that defendant committed theft while in the dwelling—satisfying the element of first-degree burglary. Affirmed.

A21-1552 State v. Green (Koochiching County)

 

 

Burglary

Predicate Offense

Defendant appealed his convictions for first-degree burglary and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct following a jury trial where he represented himself. He argued that the State did not meet its burden of proof for the burglary offense and that his waiver of trial counsel did not satisfy constitutional requirements. Alternatively, defendant argued that he must be resentenced because the District Court improperly added the burglary offense to his criminal-history score before sentencing him for the criminal-sexual-conduct offense, and he noted that the warrant of commitment contained a mistake. Noting that defendant broke into an apartment building in the middle of the night, used his size relative to the victim to physically force her into an isolated location, and sexually assaulted her, the Court of Appeals concluded that the only reasonable inference was that defendant had the specific intent to commit assault-fear when he attacked the victim in the hallway of her apartment building. However, the District Court used the wrong criminal-history score in sentencing defendant for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A21-1695 State v. Bailey (Hennepin County)

 

 

Complaints

Amendment

A jury found defendant guilty of criminal sexual conduct based on evidence that he sexually abused his two stepdaughters when they were young. Defendant argued that the District Court erred by granting the state’s mid-trial motion to amend the complaint by adding a new count that alleged second-degree criminal sexual conduct based on a single act of sexual contact. Noting that the only factual difference between the two charges was that new count alleged only a single act instead of multiple acts, and that consequently, the new count was a lesser-included offense when compared to former count, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by granting the state’s motion to amend the complaint during trial. The Court also concluded that the District Court did not err by imposing two sentences on two counts of criminal sexual conduct involving the same victim. Affirmed.

A21-1223 State v. Roulo (St. Louis County)

 

Hearsay

Prior Consistent Statements

Defendant challenged his convictions for first-degree criminal sexual conduct and fleeing police, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion by admitting (1) the victim’s forensic interview with the nurse examiner, (2) a prior incident of domestic abuse as relationship evidence, and (3) expert testimony from a nurse examiner. The Court of Appeals concluded that the victim’s trial testimony was consistent with her prior statements to the nurse examiner, and thus admissible as a prior consistent statement, that any error in admitting the relationship evidence was harmless, and that admitting the expert testimony was within the District Court’s discretion. Affirmed.

A22-0187 State v. Robinson (Ramsey County)

 

HRO Violations

Validity of Order

In this direct appeal from a judgment of conviction for violating a harassment restraining order (HRO), defendant argued that her conviction must be reversed for two reasons. First, she contended that the District Court erred by not dismissing the charge against her because the court that issued the HRO lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to include a geographic restriction. Second, she asserted that the District Court violated her constitutional rights by preventing her from introducing evidence to challenge alleged false statements made by the petitioner in the HRO case. The Court of Appeals concluded that defendant’s challenge to the statutory authority of the HRO-issuing court to order a particular restriction was an impermissible collateral attack on the HRO. Furthermore, her evidentiary challenge was not preserved as a dispositive issue on appeal. Affirmed.

A22-0154 State v. Wood (Goodhue County)

 

 

Jury Instructions

Plain Error

Defendant spit into a correctional officer’s face during a Sunday cell check at a prison. The State subsequently charged him with felony fourth-degree assault of a correctional officer. After a jury trial, defendant was found guilty. He appealed his conviction, challenging the District Court’s supplemental instruction to the jury. The Court of Appeals concluded that, although supplemental jury instructions must be given in court on the record, which did not occur here, defendant did not object to the procedure and failed to meet his heavy burden to show that the error impacted his substantial rights. Affirmed.

A22-0236 State v. Porter (Chisago County)

 

 

Plea Withdrawal

Adequate Factual Basis

In this direct appeal from the judgment of conviction for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, defendant challenged the accuracy of his guilty plea for two reasons: (1) his plea counsel used leading questions to establish the factual basis; and (2) he uttered a statement during the rights advisory that rendered the plea inaccurate. The Court of Appeals concluded that the plea colloquy contained sufficient factual admissions to support the conviction despite the form of the attorney’s questions. Furthermore, to the extent defendant’s statement that he “never raped” the victim could be construed as a statement of innocence, his attorney responded by asking specific questions about the specific criminal sexual conduct alleged. Affirmed.

A21-1713 State v. Jones (Hennepin County)

 

 

Probation Revocation

Need for Confinement

Defendant challenged the revocation of his probation, arguing that the District Court failed to make sufficient findings to conclude that the need for confinement outweighed the policies favoring probation. Noting that the District Court provided no reasons or supporting evidence indicating why confinement was necessary to protect the public from defendant, why treatment would be more effective with defendant confined, or how the seriousness of defendant’s violations would be depreciated if he was allowed to remain on probation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not provide a case-specific analysis of the third Austin factor and the Modtland subfactors. Reversed and remanded.

A22-0649 State v. Rogers (Aitkin County)

 

 

Sentencing

Criminal-History Score

In this direct appeal following guilty pleas to violating an order for protection (OFP), defendant challenged his sentence. Noting that the state conceded that defendant’s sentence was based on an erroneous criminal-history score, the Court of Appeals concluded that resentencing was required, despite the fact that defendant had agreed to the sentence as part of a plea agreement. Reversed and remanded.

A22-0396 State v. Grasty (Hennepin County)

 

 

Sentencing

Criminal-History Score

Defendant challenged his sentence for aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder, arguing that the District Court sentenced defendant based on an inaccurate criminal-history score. Noting that the parties and District Court discovered the criminal-history score error before sentencing and the District Court sentenced defendant using an accurate score, and that defendant’s sentence was within the presumptive range of the sentencing guidelines as contemplated by the plea agreement, the Court of Appeals discerned no error or abuse of discretion. Affirmed.

A22-0114 State v. Ighovojah (Ramsey County)

 

 

Sentencing

Restitution

Defendant challenged his sentences for criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography, arguing that the District Court (1) abused its discretion by awarding restitution for losses incurred by the victim’s mother and sister because those losses did not directly result from the offenses, and (2) erred by sentencing him for both offenses because they arose out of a single behavioral incident. The Court of Appeals concluded that because mother undisputedly was a family-member victim and her testimony amply established that defendant’s offenses caused her to suffer losses in the form of therapy expenses and lost wages, the District Court did not abuse its discretion by awarding restitution for those losses. But because the record contained no evidence of a similarly direct connection between defendant’s offenses and sister’s therapy expenses, the District Court abused its discretion by awarding restitution for those losses. Furthermore, the District Court erred by sentencing defendant for both offenses. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A22-0793 State v. Allison (Traverse County)

 

 

Spreigl Evidence

Notice

Defendant challenged his criminal-sexual-conduct convictions, arguing that the District Court erroneously admitted Spreigl evidence to show a common scheme or plan when the state did not explicitly assert that theory of relevance. Noting that defendant had notice of the state’s intent to offer the evidence for just under three years, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was substantial compliance with the Spreigl notice requirement. Affirmed.

A22-0238 State v. Bothun (Olmsted County)

 

 

Spreigl Evidence

Relevant & Material

Defendant challenged his conviction for solicitation of a child to engage in sexual conduct, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion by admitting other-acts evidence and by denying his motion for in camera review of the child’s therapy and psychological records. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court was within its discretion in concluding that evidence of defendant’s conduct toward another child was relevant and material to the case. Affirmed.

A22-0203 State v. Altobelli (Sherburne County)

 

 

Administrative Orders

 

Judges

Congressional District

The Court of Appeals issued an order redesignating judges for each congressional district and the recent reapportionment.

ADM10-8010 In re Designation of Court of Appeals Judges for Congressional Dists.


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