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Court of Appeals Digest: Feb. 21, 2023

Civil Nonprecedential


Breach of Contract

Statute of Limitations

Pro se appellant sued respondents alleging that these entities violated a stock option agreement that he entered into with his former employer, which was later acquired by an entity owned by respondents. The District Court dismissed appellant’s complaints, determining that statutes of limitations barred appellant’s claims and that appellant’s complaint failed to state claims upon which relief could be granted. Appellant appealed, arguing that the District Court incorrectly calculated the applicable limitations periods and erred in determining that he had failed to state cognizable legal claims. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant’s claims accrued in May 2015 when former employer was acquired, and because he commenced his lawsuit after the deadlines provided by the applicable statutes of limitations, his claims were time barred. Affirmed.

A22-1210 Lugo v. ProPharma PV, Inc. (Ramsey County)





A high school student was expelled in the middle of his senior year. He pursued an administrative appeal to the commissioner of education, who reversed the expulsion. The school district sought judicial review of the commissioner’s decision in this court. Before the parties submitted their appellate briefs, the student graduated from high school. The Court of Appeals concluded that the appeal was moot and that none of the exceptions to the mootness doctrine applied. Appeal dismissed.

A22-0546 Re Expulsion Appeal File 22-04-E (Minn. Dep’t of Educ.)



Harassment Restraining Orders

Unreasonable Conduct

Two residents of a downtown Minneapolis condominium building quarreled in the lobby bar. One resident used his cellphone to make video-recordings of the other resident. The resident who was being recorded tried to grab the cellphone, which led to physical contact between the two residents. Each resident petitioned the District Court for a harassment restraining order against the other. In this case, the District Court denied the petition of the resident who was recorded. The District Court found that, when respondent made contact with appellant, he was trying to defend himself against appellant’s attempts to grab his cellphone and that any physical contact caused by respondent was merely incidental to his efforts to resist appellant’s reaching or grabbing motion. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not clearly err in its factual findings and, thus, did not err by denying the petition. Affirmed.

A22-0703 Jacobson v. Parisi (Hennepin County)




Collateral Estoppel

Appellant appealed the District Court’s order granting respondent-wife relief from judgment pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(e). The District Court determined that wife had satisfied a 2013 judgment against both wife and her codefendant-husband for fraudulent transfer of funds husband owed to appellant. On appeal, appellant contended that (1) wife’s argument to the District Court—that husband’s bankruptcy payment applied toward the judgment—was procedurally barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel and (2) husband’s bankruptcy payment could not be applied toward the judgment as a matter of law. Noting that wife had never been able to request complete relief from the judgment through full payment until now, the Court of Appeals rejected appellant’s collateral-estoppel argument and discerned no error in the District Court’s determination that husband’s bankruptcy payment applied toward the judgment. Affirmed.

A22-1118 Lariat Cos., Inc. v. Wigley (Hennepin County)




Special Assessments

This was a breach-of-contract dispute between the seller and buyer of unimproved land for residential development. Appellant, a family partnership, owning land partially inside and partially outside a city’s border sold land inside the border to prior developers for a planned multiphase residential development project and, 15 years later, sold land mostly outside the border to a different developer (the respondent current developer). The developer that bought the city land 15 years earlier had signed a contract with the city, agreeing to pay the city one-third the city’s cost for a $750,000 road project and representing that the remainder would be paid through special assessments against the remainder of the multiphase development project. But the family was not a party to that contract. When the city learned about the family’s planned sale of the noncity land and the current buyer-developer’s application to annex that land into the city, the city demanded that the family pay what the prior developer had promised. The family refused. Based on a clause in the family and current developer’s purchase agreement requiring the family to pay any special assessment and prior-development costs, the current developer sued the family for breach of contract and obtained a summary-judgment order requiring the family to pay the road-project costs. The Court of Appeals reversed in part because the developer did not produce evidence undisputedly establishing that the city has any claim that would constitute a “special assessment” or “cost” against the property as those terms were contemplated in the purchase agreement. The Court affirmed in part because the undisputed facts foreclosed the family’s counterclaim alleging that the developer delayed sending the family an environmental report in bad faith. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A22-1111 JMH Land Dev. Co. LLC v. Siegle Fam. Ltd. P’ship (Carver County)





Appellant successfully petitioned respondent-township in 2020 to realign an access route, known as a cartway, over property owned by respondent-LLC. Appellant challenged the District Court’s calculation of damages that appellant owed to respondent LLC resulting from the realignment of the cartway. Under Minnesota law, damages in cartway proceedings generally are measured by determining the difference in the fair market value of the burdened property before and after the establishment of the cartway. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court erred in calculating the damages award because it included a separate measure of damages for existing improvements to the land and did not base the damages award on the actual fair market value of the land taken for the cartway and any diminution in the fair market value of the remaining property as a result. Reversed and remanded.

A22-0805 Heggemeyer v. Spalding Twp. (Aitkin County)



Unemployment Benefits


Relator challenged the decision of an unemployment-law judge that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he quit his employment without a good reason caused by his employer, in that he alleged his supervisors failed to contact human resources and request an investigation into the sexual-harassment allegations against relator. The Court of Appeals agreed with the ULJ’s finding that relator did not have a good reason to quit because being accused of sexual harassment under similar circumstances would not compel an average, reasonable worker to quit. Affirmed.

A22-0814 Mathieu v. Univ. of St. Thomas (Dep’t of Emp’t & Econ. Dev.)



Unjust Enrichment

Failure of Consideration

In this third appeal in an intra-family dispute arising from appellant’s transfer, to avoid foreclosure, of 470 acres of farmland to his parents, appellant challenged the jury verdict in favor of respondents, arguing that (1) the District Court erred by failing to independently weigh the evidence and make its own factual findings on appellant’s equitable claims for specific performance and unjust enrichment; (2) the evidence did not support the unjust enrichment verdict; and (3) the evidence did not support the jury’s finding that appellant owed $100,000 for outstanding loans. The Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence presented at trial supported the jury’s finding that respondents were not unjustly enriched and appellant’s breach of the loan agreement caused respondents $100,000 in damages. Appellant’s argument that the District Court should have made its own factual findings was not before the court. Affirmed.

A22-0843 Christie v. Estate of Christie (Fillmore County)




Criminal Nonprecedential




Defendant appealed from judgments of conviction for two counts of second-degree assault (fear) with a dangerous weapon, arguing that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not acting in self-defense. Noting that any right of self-defense that defendant had ended when the aggressors withdrew, leaving him the opportunity to retreat., the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant failed to exercise his duty to retreat. Affirmed.

A22-0432 State v. Blevins (Hennepin County)



Controlled Substance Crimes

Sufficiency of the Evidence

These were consolidated appeals from judgments of conviction of appellant for first-degree controlled-substance crime and five unlawful-possession-of-firearm-or-ammunition crimes. Defendant argued that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his first-degree controlled-substance-crime conviction, and that (2) four of his sentences for firearm or ammunition possession must be vacated because the acts of possession occurred during a single behavioral incident and the firearm exception to the prohibition against multiple sentences did not apply. Noting that the witness’s testimony was amply corroborated, the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence supported defendant’s conviction. However, the District Court erred by imposing multiple sentences for defendant’s firearm-and ammunition-possession convictions. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A22-0583, A22-0586 State v. Wilson (Clay County)



Illegal Firearm Possession

Sufficiency of the Evidence

Defendant challenged his conviction, following a jury trial, for possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. He contended that the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Alternatively, defendant sought a new trial, arguing that the District Court erred by prohibiting him from impeaching a witness with her probationary status while allowing evidence of his probation, the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument, and cumulatively, these errors deprived him of a fair trial. Noting that forensic analysis of a sample taken from the gun’s grip revealed that defendant’s DNA was the major profile in a mixture of DNA from four individuals, the Court of Appeals concluded that it was not reasonable to infer that the gun belonged to someone else and the State satisfied its burden of establishing defendant’s guilt. Furthermore, the other errors that defendant alleged did not affect the jury’s verdict. Affirmed.

A22-0377 State v. Ret (Steele County)


Probation Revocation

Need for Confinement

Defendant challenged the District Court’s revocation of his probation for third-degree assault, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion in determining that the need for confinement outweighed the policies favoring continued probation. Noting that the District Court made the findings required by Austin and Modtland to revoke probation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion by revoking defendant’s probation and executing his sentence. Affirmed.

A22-1018 State v. Strom (Lyon County)




Downward Departures

Defendant pleaded guilty to a second-degree drug offense and to a charge of escape from custody. Before sentencing, she moved for a downward dispositional departure from the presumptive sentencing range on the ground that she was particularly amenable to probation. The District Court denied the motion. Noting that defendant had more than a dozen prior felony convictions and several additional convictions of gross-misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by concluding that defendant was not particularly amenable to probation.

A22-0511 State v. Edge (Mower County)



Downward Departures

Defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by denying her motion for a downward dispositional departure on her conviction for attempted second-degree murder because substantial and compelling reasons existed to justify a departure. Noting that the District Court made its decision after defendant had been discharged from her treatment program two months prior to sentencing, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court acted within its discretion in imposing a guidelines sentence. Affirmed.

A22-0730 State v. Wesley (Anoka County)



Traffic Stops

Expansion of Scope

Defendant argued that the District Court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence discovered in his vehicle glove box following a dog sniff because (1) the search was based on improper pretext, (2) the trooper lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify the expansion of the scope of the search, and (3) the dog sniff of the interior of the vehicle was not supported by probable cause. Noting that the circumstances in their totality and, taken together with rational inferences, gave the trooper reasonable suspicion that defendant was presently involved in drug-related criminal activity, the Court of Appeals concluded that the trooper had reasonable suspicion to expand the scope of the search. And defendant’s arguments regarding pretext and probable cause were not preserved at the District Court. Affirmed.

A22-0371 State v. Gomez (Crow Wing County)

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