Appellants, a parent company and its subsidiaries, sought interlocutory review of the District Court’s order denying their motions to dismiss respondent’s amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The amended complaint alleged various claims, the gist of these allegations was that respondent rented a home from appellant under an unlawful lease that required her to perform maintenance without compensation. Appellants argued that the amended complaint failed to allege facts showing (1) personal jurisdiction over appellant; (2) respondent’s standing to pursue claims against all appellants; or (3) a public benefit under the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act (MCFA).
The Court of Appeals held that an order denying a defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is immediately appealable when the defendant’s motion is based on the plaintiff’s lack of standing. Here, the Court affirmed the District Court’s determination that the amended complaint sufficiently alleged standing as to parent company and reversed the District Court’s determination that the amended complaint sufficiently alleges standing as to the subsidiaries. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-0928 Stone v. Invitation Homes, Inc. (Hennepin County)
Respondent hoped to build an oriented-strand-board manufacturing facility for which it will require permits from governmental entities including respondent city. After preparing a required environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) in relation to the planned facility, the city decided that it was not necessary to prepare a more detailed environmental-impact statement (EIS). Relator Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe filed this certiorari appeal to challenge the city’s decision not to prepare an EIS. The Band argued that the facility fell into categories for which an EIS is mandatory under governing administrative rules. Alternatively, the Band challenged the city’s determination that the facility did not trigger the requirement that an EIS be prepared for a proposed project that has the potential for significant environmental effects.
The Court of Appeals held that preparation of an EIS is mandatory under Minn. R. 4410.4400, subp. 20, when a proposed project will eliminate a public waters wetland. Under Minn. Stat. § 103G.005, subd. 15a, public waters wetlands have two qualifying characteristics—wetland type and minimum acreage. A proposed project will eliminate a public waters wetland if it will deprive the public waters wetland of either of its two qualifying characteristics. Thus, the record lacked substantial evidence to support the city’s determination that no public waters wetlands will be eliminated, and the record lacked substantial evidence to support the city’s determination that the project did not have the potential for significant environmental effects through wetlands filling.
A22-0550 In re City of Cohasset’s Decision (City of Cohasset)
Attorney & Client
In this post-remand appeal, appellant-clients challenged the District Court’s determination of the amount of an attorney lien owed to respondent-attorneys. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because breach of fiduciary is an equitable claim, appellants were not entitled to a jury trial, and the District Court did not err by refusing to grant one. However, the District Court used the incorrect burden of proof when reaching a decision on appellants’ breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-0932 Hagle v. Erickson, Bell, Beckman & Quinn (Chisago County)
Breach of Contract
In this contract dispute arising out of new home construction, homeowner-appellants challenged the District Court’s decision to enter judgment in favor of respondent. They argued that the evidence presented supported factual findings that respondent performed incomplete and defective work, justifying appellants’ failure to pay respondent for those services. Appellants also challenged the District Court’s decision to award respondent attorney fees, arguing that the statute permitting an award of attorney fees did not apply because neither appellant was a general contractor. Noting the finding that any alleged defects in respondent’s work were remedied prior to the conclusion of his work for appellants, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not clearly err in making the challenged factual findings underlying the judgment and award of attorney fees. Affirmed.
A22-0894 Jay Tody Constr., LLC v. Schlegel (Cass County)
Breach of Contract
Appellants challenged the District Court’s denial of their motion for amended findings or a new trial, arguing that a contractual liquidated-damages clause was enforceable and that respondent did not substantially complete its work under the contract. By notice of related appeal, respondent challenged both parties’ attorney-fee awards. The Court of Appeals concluded that the contract as a whole suggested that the liquidated-damages clause was a penalty. However, the District Court erred in awarding attorney fees to appellant. Affirmed in part and reversed in part.
A22-0609 Athena 2004, LLC v. LC Rochester, Inc. (Olmsted County)
Mental Illness; Sufficiency of the Evidence
Appellant challenged his recommitment as a person who posed a risk of harm due to a mental illness and as chemically dependent, arguing that the District Court (1) clearly erred by finding he met the criteria for recommitment due to mental illness, (2) erred by committing him as chemically dependent because it was not part of the initial commitment, (3) clearly erred by finding that commitment was the least-restrictive suitable disposition, and (4) abused its discretion by conducting the recommitment hearing in his absence. Noting that the record contained the doctor’s competency-evaluation report and the county’s prepetition screening report, both of which provided ample evidence of appellant’s mental illness and the likelihood of harm if he was not committed, the Court of Appeals held that the District Court did not clearly err by finding that he met the criteria for a mental-illness recommitment. Affirmed.
A22-1220 In re Civil Commitment of Aguirre (Crow Wing County)
Department of Public Safety
In this certiorari appeal, relators, an owner and his business, challenged respondent Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) decision to revoke relator’s access to a database that relator depended on to complete used-automotive transactions. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because relator willfully accessed data associated with himself in the MNDRIVE system without a business purpose, DPS appropriately imposed the statutory penalty that Minn. Stat. § 171.12, subd. 1a(b), required. Affirmed.
A22-0680 Robuck v. Minn. Dep’t of Pub. Safety (Dep’t of Pub. Safety)
Child Custody; Modification
Appellant-mother challenged the District Court’s order modifying custody, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion in awarding respondent-father sole legal and sole physical custody of the parties’ child, in failing to appoint a guardian ad litem, in declining to interview the child, and in excluding as irrelevant the evidence of respondent’s 2011 psychological evaluation. Noting the findings that that the parties were completely unable to communicate with each other and that they could not make decisions together, the Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion in the District Court’s determinations. Affirmed.
A20-0911 Peterson v. Kendrick (St. Louis County)
In this dissolution appeal, appellant-husband argued that the District Court: (1) clearly erred when calculating the parties’ gross incomes; (2) miscalculated child support; (3) should have awarded husband spousal maintenance; (4) should not have ordered the parties to enter a noncompete agreement; (5) should not have awarded respondent-wife conduct-based attorney fees; and (6) should not have adopted wife’s proposed judgment verbatim. Husband contended that the income calculations were clearly erroneous because wife received the businesses as part of the judgment, and the calculation of his income was based, in part, on the assumption that he would receive income from the businesses. Noting that the District Court could reasonably rely on the parties’ past incomes from the businesses to calculate the parties’ potential incomes, the Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion in the calculation of the parties’ gross incomes, nor in any other issue. Affirmed.
A22-0499 McMullen v. McMullen (Hennepin County)
Relators argued that an environmental-assessment worksheet (EAW) related to the proposed expansion of a water maintenance facility prepared by respondent city was incomplete and inaccurate, did not sufficiently address mitigation considerations, and was the product of bias. Relators also argued that an environmental-impact statement (EIS) was required. The Court of Appeals concluded that the record contained no evidence of actual bias by the city, the city prepared a complete and accurate EAW in compliance with applicable authorities, and no EIS was required. Affirmed.
A21-1297 E. Phillips Neighborhood Inst., Inc. v. City of Minneapolis (City of Minneapolis)
In this dispute arising out of loans made to invest in reverse-merger transactions, appellant challenged a judgment in excess of $6 million following a jury trial on the parties’ competing contract-related claims. Appellant argued that the District Court (1) erred by granting summary judgment dismissing appellant’s fraud and civil-theft claims; (2) erred by granting judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) dismissing appellant’s rescission and conversion claims; (3) erred by excluding evidence that certain transactions amounted to a “universal settlement” between the parties; and (4) abused its discretion by denying appellant’s motion for a new trial. The Court of Appeals concluded that (1) respondent was entitled to summary judgment dismissing appellant’s counterclaims for fraud and civil theft absent competent evidence to support appellant’s bald allegations; (2) there was no error in granting JMOL dismissing appellant’s Savage’s counterclaims for rescission and conversion; (3) there was no abuse of discretion in excluding evidence of a purported universal settlement of claims between the parties; and (4) appellant was not entitled to a new trial. Affirmed.
A22-0898 Foss v. Savage (Hennepin County)
In this underinsured-motorist benefits action, appellant-insured challenged the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to respondent-insurer based on collateral estoppel. Appellant argued that the arbitration agreement he entered in his tort action reserved his underinsured-motorist (UIM) claim for later adjudication and that the District Court erred in disregarding the context of the agreement and actions of the parties. The Court of Appeals concluded, because that the prior arbitration award collaterally estopped appellant from relitigating his damages, the District Court did not err in granting summary judgment for respondent-insurer. Affirmed.
A22-1160 Kemp v. State Farm Ins. Co. (Ramsey County)
Duty of Care
Appellant, an inmate, injured his wrist when a security door closed as he exited the residential wing of a state prison. He sought review from a judgment dismissing his claims against respondent, the corrections officer who operated the security door. Appellant argued that the District Court erred by granting summary judgment dismissing his negligence and battery claims and by dismissing his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court of Appeals concluded that, in response to evidence submitted by respondent, appellant produced no evidence from which a jury could find that respondent breached his duty of care to appellant or that respondent intentionally closed the door on appellant as alleged in the complaint, defeating his negligence and battery claims. The Court also concluded that any error was harmless in the District Court’s decision to dismiss the § 1983 claim. Affirmed.
A22-0319 Hickman v. Schnell (Chisago County)
Slip & Falls
Appellant challenged the summary-judgment dismissal of his negligence claim against respondent store owner, arguing that the District Court erred by determining that no genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether respondent had actual or constructive knowledge of the icy condition that caused appellant to slip and fall outside respondent’s store. Noting evidence in the summary-judgment record that supported a different conclusions as to when the parking lot was last plowed and when the icy condition developed, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was a genuine issue of material fact that precluded summary judgment. Reversed and remanded.
A22-0970 Stengel v. Casey’s Retail Co. (Yellow Medicine County)
Twelve years after his brother’s death, appellant petitioned the District Court for the appointment of a special administrator to investigate and pursue claims against his sister for actions she may have taken years earlier while she was acting as attorney-in-fact for the now-deceased brother. The District Court denied the petition on the grounds that any causes of action that a special administrator might possess were time-barred, that the deceased brother’s will devised all of his property to the sister who acted as attorney-in-fact, and that the petition was barred by the doctrine of laches. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by determining that the appointment of a special administrator was unnecessary and that the District Court did not err by denying the appellant’s requests for an accounting and an injunction. Affirmed.
A22-0957 In re Estate of Carlson (Hennepin County)
Appellants challenged the District Court’s grant of summary judgment upholding respondent-township’s issuance of a conditional use permit (CUP) for a new housing development to be located near appellants’ residences. On appeal, they argued that the township’s grant of the CUP was unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious because (1) the township misapplied its zoning ordinance and (2) the township’s findings in the resolution approving the CUP lacked substantial evidentiary support. Noting that appellants mischaracterized the township’s obligation to consider traffic impacts when reviewing a CUP application, and that the record confirmed that the township carefully considered traffic, both within the proposed development and in nearby areas, the Court of Appeals concluded that the township’s reasons for approving the CUP comported with the zoning ordinance. Furthermore, the township’s findings had substantial evidentiary support. Affirmed.
A22-0672 Miller v. Baytown Twp. (Washington County)
Defendant challenged his convictions for first- and second-degree assault. He contended that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in self-defense and that his warrant of commitment erroneously reflects judgments of conviction for both first- and second-degree assault. The Court of Appeals concluded that the victim’s testimony that defendant hit him in the face and then reached for a knife was sufficient to disprove the absence of aggression or provocation on the part of defendant, and thus sufficient to disprove defendant’s self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt. However, second-degree assault is a lesser-included offense of first-degree assault. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-0605 State v. Barrios (Hennepin County)
In this appeal from the judgment of conviction of prostitution involving a minor and electronic solicitation of a child, defendant argued that: (1) the District Court erred by determining that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt his predisposition to commit solicitation and prostitution, and he was therefore not entrapped; (2) the District Court erred by not obtaining defendant’s waiver of his right to a jury trial on the entrapment defense; and (3) he could not receive a separate sentence on the solicitation conviction because it was part of the same behavioral incident as the prostitution conviction. Noting that defendant voluntarily went on the sex-advertisement website where he sought sex for sale, initiated contact, and did not terminate contact when an officer disclosed that she was 15 years old, the Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported that defendant had a predisposition based on his active solicitation to commit the crimes. Furthermore, the District Court did not err by accepting defendant’s counsel’s request to submit the entrapment defense to the court and not the jury. However, the District Court erred by imposing a sentence on the electronic-solicitation-of-a-child conviction because it was part of the same behavioral incident as the prostitution-of-a-minor conviction. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-0342 State v. Gusciora (Isanti County)
Helpful to Jury
A jury found defendant guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct based on evidence that he engaged in multiple acts of sexual contact with his daughter over an extended period of time. Defendant argued that the District Court erred by admitting a forensic interviewer’s expert testimony concerning delayed and incremental reporting by adolescent victims of sexual abuse. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion by determining that the expert testimony might be helpful to the jury, and did not plainly err by not excluding the expert testimony pursuant to rule 403 on the ground that its probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, and misleading of the jury. Affirmed.
A22-0182 State v. King (Ramsey County)
After his conviction for first-degree controlled substance crime was affirmed on direct appeal, petitioner sought postconviction relief, asserting claims of ineffective counsel by his trial and appellate attorneys. The District Court denied relief on the ground that the petition for postconviction relief was untimely. Petitioner appealed, arguing that his petition was not time-barred and that he was entitled to relief on the merits of his claims. The Court of Appeals concluded that (1) the District Court erred by determining that petitioner’s petition was untimely, as disposition of the direct appeal became final 90 days from when the time for filing a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court expired, (2) petitioner’s ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim was Knaffla-barred but his ineffective-assistance-of-appellate-counsel claim was not, and (3) his ineffective-assistance-of-appellate-counsel claim failed on the merits. Affirmed.
A22-0955 Beasley v. State (Olmsted County)
Right to Complete Defense
Defendant challenged his conviction for first-degree assault, arguing that the District Court denied him his right to present a complete defense by its erroneous evidentiary rulings, the District Court erred in denying his request for a continuance, and he was denied effective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals found no violation of the right to a complete defense, concluding that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in prohibiting defendant from questioning witnesses about a witness’s past specific instances of violence, did not err in in prohibiting defendant from impeaching a witness’s credibility with specific instances of his past violent conduct, did not abuse its discretion in prohibiting defendant from questioning a witness about Facebook posts involving his attitude toward pedophiles, and that the District Court’s error in prohibiting a witness from testifying about another witness’s reputation for violence was harmless. Affirmed.
A22-0387 State v. Treu (Wabasha County)
Right to Counsel
In this direct appeal from the judgment of conviction for second-degree murder, defendant argued that: (1) the District Court erred by declining to appoint substitute counsel, (2) the District Court erred in imposing an upward durational departure without articulating the justification for departure, (3) his conviction for second-degree unintentional murder must be vacated because it is an included offense of his conviction for second-degree intentional murder, (4) he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and (5) the prosecutor committed misconduct by failing to disclose discovery materials. Noting that defendant did not seek to discharge the public defender’s office until the fourth day of trial, the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant failed to timely request substitute counsel. However, the District Court erred in imposing an aggravated sentence and by entering judgment on both murder charges. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-0242 State v. Stephenson (Stearns County)
Right to Public Trial
Defendant challenged his conviction of receiving stolen property, arguing that he was denied a public trial. In the first in-person jury trial in the county since the beginning of the pandemic, the District Court limited courtroom access to defendant, the attorneys, and the jurors (who were spread out around the courtroom), while providing alternative access for members of the public as a “virtual meeting room.” Noting that the unobjected-to courtroom restrictions implemented for defendant’s trial would not lead the public to doubt the fairness and integrity of the judicial system, the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant was not entitled to a new trial. Affirmed.
A21-0976 State v. Stroschein (Benton County)
Defendant challenged her conviction of two counts of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance. Defendant argued that the District Court erred by denying her motion to suppress evidence seized when police executed a search warrant for her residence as well as evidence seized when police subsequently conducted a warrantless search of her person. Noting that the search-warrant application included information provided by the cooperating defendant that he had recently purchased methamphetamine at the residence along with the officers’ discovery of controlled substances in trash bags collected from a trash bin adjacent to the property, the Court of Appeals concluded that the information in the application established probable cause to search defendant’s residence and the subsequent search of defendant’s person met an exception to the warrant requirement. Affirmed.
A22-0213 State v. Peterson (Crow Wing County)
Defendant challenged his sentence following his convictions for violation and attempted violation of a domestic-abuse no-contact order, arguing that the District Court should have awarded custody credit for time he spent in custody in Illinois on an offense unrelated to his Minnesota offenses. Noting that the Minnesota offense was not the sole reason for his custody in Illinois, the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant was not entitled to interjurisdictional custody credit. Affirmed.
A22-1025 State v. Perdue (Stearns County)
Petitioner pleaded guilty to charges related to an alleged personal-care-assistant-fraud scheme. The District Court sentenced her to 57 months’ imprisonment but, uncertain about whether insurance-backed surety bonds would cover a portion of the victim’s requested restitution, the court reserved the issue of restitution. The District Court eventually ordered petitioner to pay over one million dollars in restitution. Petitioner challenged the restitution order on appeal, contending that the District Court lacked the authority to award restitution after it sentenced her. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the District Court did not know the extent of harm to the victim when it sentenced petitioner, it had the statutory authority to wait to decide restitution. Affirmed.
A22-0827 Williams v. State (Hennepin County)
Right to Be Present
Defendant challenged his sentence following a domestic-assault conviction, arguing that the District Court denied his right to be present at sentencing and erred in assigning him criminal-history points for a 2005 Illinois conviction. The Court of Appeals concluded that muting defendant during a remote sentencing hearing did not result in him not being “present” during the hearing. However, the state failed to offer sufficient evidence that appellant’s Illinois conviction had not decayed. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-0691 State v. Posey (Ramsey County)
A sheriff’s deputy watched a pickup truck that was towing a trailer pull onto and move slowly down a highway’s shoulder before he stopped the truck and discovered that its driver, defendant, was drunk. Defendant challenged his consequent impaired-driving conviction, arguing that the District Court should have suppressed all evidence resulting from the traffic stop, which he asserted was unconstitutional for lack of reasonable suspicion of any crime. He also argued that the District Court acted with partiality by considering facts not submitted as evidence at the omnibus hearing. Noting that motorists violate the law by driving on the shoulder, except in circumstances not relevant here, the Court of Appeals held that the deputy had reasonable suspicion to stop defendant’s truck. Furthermore, the record did not support defendant’s assertion of judicial misconduct. Affirmed.
A22-0663 State v. Mattingly (Carlton County)