Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Recent News
Home / Opinions / Court of Appeals / Court of Appeals Digest: April 3, 2023

Court of Appeals Digest: April 3, 2023

Civil Nonprecedential


Attorney & Client

Attorney Disqualification

In these consolidated appeals related to proceedings for two harassment restraining order (HRO) petitions, appellant argued that the District Court judge was not authorized to issue an order disqualifying his counsel, that the District Court abused its discretion in disqualifying his counsel, and that the disqualification order was impermissibly broad. The Court of Appeals concluded that, despite the pending notice to remove the District Court judge, the judge was authorized to issue the disqualification order and there was no abuse of discretion or error in that order. Affirmed.

A22-1468, A22-1469 Beland v. Rylander (Polk County)



Breach of Contract


In this dispute arising out of purchased account receivables, appellant-purchaser challenged the District Court’s rule 12.02(e) dismissal of its counterclaims for breach of contract and promissory estoppel against respondent-debtor. Appellant argued that the District Court erred by dismissing the breach-of-contract counterclaim for lack of consideration because appellant’s pleading alleged that it detrimentally relied on respondent’s promises, which was consideration. Appellant also contended that the District Court erroneously dismissed the alternative promissory-estoppel counterclaim because, contrary to the District Court’s determination, appellant’s pleading alleged an independent promise made by respondent to appellant. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant alleged sufficient consideration in the form of a detriment, as well as sufficient separate promises between appellant and respondent and appellant’s detrimental reliance thereon. Reversed and remanded.

A22-0912 Dynamic Energy Solutions, LLC v. Danna, LLC (Ramsey County)


Breach of Contract


Pro se appellant argued that, following a court trial, the District Court erred by determining that respondent-company did not breach contracts with appellant to provide graphic-design and marketing services for appellant’s jewelry business. Noting that the District Court did not find appellant credible, and that the representation agreement contained no guarantee that respondent would acquire licenses for appellant’s jewelry, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by determining that appellant failed to prove that respondent breached the product-development agreement or the representation agreement. Affirmed.

A22-1416 Warren v. Enhance Product Dev. (Hennepin County)



Domestic Relations

Child Custody; Modification

Appellant-mother challenged the District Court’s decision to deny her motion to modify custody without affording her an evidentiary hearing. First, mother argued that the District Court failed to address each of the four elements required for a prima facie case to modify custody due to endangerment. Second, mother argued the District Court erred by denying her motion without an evidentiary hearing because the District Court (a) did not accept the facts alleged in mother’s affidavits as true and (b) erred in concluding that mother failed to allege a prima facie case supporting custody modification. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the District Court ruled that mother failed to allege two of the four modification elements, it did not err in denying her motion without analyzing the remaining two elements. Furthermore, mother was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Affirmed.

A22-0492 Hinrichs v. Hinrichs (Redwood County)



Domestic Relations

Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights

Appellant argued that the District Court abused its discretion in terminating his parental rights because it erroneously concluded that the conditions that led to out-of-home placement of the child had not been corrected. The Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the District Court’s determination that there was clear and convincing evidence that father was unable to keep the child safe from exposure to controlled substances. Affirmed.

A22-1540 In re Welfare of Child of C.A.E. (Chippewa County)



Domestic Relations

Dissolution; Foreign Judgments

In this marital-dissolution dispute, appellant argued that the District Court erred by enforcing the terms of a document purporting to dissolve and liquidate the marital estate executed under Colombian law. Appellant also challenged the District Court’s denial of spousal maintenance, calculation of respondent’s income for child-support purposes, and denial of need-based attorney fees. The Court of Appeals concluded that the principles of comity were applicable, but remand was required for an analysis as to whether enforcement of the Colombian agreement would violate the public policy against unconscionable contracts. However, the District Court did not err in determining that appellant was not entitled to temporary spousal maintenance. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A22-0954 Rzeczkowski v. Borrero (Hennepin County)



Domestic Relations

Dissolution; Parenting Consultants

In this dissolution action, appellant-wife and respondent-husband stipulated to the resolution of all issues except child custody and parenting time. In lieu of a trial on those two issues, they agreed to submit them to a parenting consultant, who would have authority to conduct an evaluation and then make a recommendation to the District Court concerning custody and a binding decision concerning parenting time, subject to either party’s right to seek review by the District Court. Neither party asked the District Court to review the parenting consultant’s decisions. Nonetheless, the parties disagreed about the language of a stipulated decree incorporating the parenting consultant’s decisions. The parties submitted separate proposed documents. The District Court signed and filed husband’s proposed document. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by adopting husband’s proposed document instead of wife’s proposed document. Affirmed.

A22-0731 Salvose v. Salvosa (Hennepin County)



Environmental Law

Septic Tanks

Absent special approvals, septic tanks in Minnesota cannot have openings below the sewage liquid level of the tank. But an inspection revealed that relator had five registered septic tanks with plugged drilled holes (referred to as “weep holes”) at its facility. Relator initially claimed to the agency that regulates septic tanks, respondent Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), that these tanks were an “anomaly.”  After further investigation, the MPCA ordered relator to stop selling septic tanks with weep holes and to inspect six of its installed precast concrete septic tanks, selected by the MPCA, for weep holes. If any of the six septic tanks were discovered to contain a weep hole—with or without a plug—the MPCA’s order directs relator to pump, inspect, and repair every tank it installed since January 2013. In this certiorari appeal, relator contended that the MPCA (1) erred when it treated plugged weep holes in relator’s septic tanks as prohibited “openings” and as not meeting the requirements of either of two approval paths for septic-tank design, and (2) lacked substantial evidence to require the inspection and potential repair of relator’s septic tanks. The Court of Appeals concluded that a weep hole, whether plugged or not, is an opening under the plain meaning of the septic-tank regulations and relator did not obtain local unit of government approval for its design, and the MPCA had substantial evidence to issue its order against relator. Affirmed.

A22-1161 In re Del Zotto Products (Minn. Pollution Control Agency)




Valid Interest

In the underlying action here, the complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that certain statutes governing abortion and advertising related to treatment of sexually transmitted infections violated the Minnesota Constitution. The District Court entered partial summary judgment ruling several of the challenged laws unconstitutional and enjoining their enforcement. The county attorney moved to intervene as a matter of right, and the District Court denied intervention. County attorney appealed. The Court of Appeals concluded that county attorney failed to claim a valid interest in the subject of the action. Affirmed.

A22-1265 Doe v. State (Ramsey County)




Exclusive Representatives

Relator appealed from an order issued by respondent Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) that withdrew BMS’ earlier certification of relator as the exclusive representative of all supervisory employees employed in the St. Cloud police department support division. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because BMS failed to consider whether the employees in the support division were supervisory employees as defined by statute, its decision to withdraw relator’s certification was without substantial evidentiary support. Reversed and remanded.

A22-1119 Law Enforcement Labor Servs., Inc. v. City of St. Cloud (Bureau of Mediation Servs.)



Landlord & Tenant


Pro se residential tenant appealed from an eviction judgment based on nonpayment of rent, arguing that he was not timely provided landlord’s exhibit and witness lists, the lease presented to the court was fraudulent, and the referee was biased. The Court of Appeals discerned no abuse of discretion in the District Court’s decision to receive landlord’s exhibits and no judicial bias. Affirmed.

A22-0690 Sium v. Rutherford (Ramsey County)



Mechanic’s Liens

Pre-Lien Notice

Appellant challenged the District Court’s findings following a court trial in a contract and mechanic’s lien dispute, arguing that the District Court clearly erred by finding that (1) respondent was entitled to $4,242.52 for electrical work it performed for appellant and (2) appellant was not entitled to prelien notice. Noting that the invoice itself stated that appellant owed respondent $4,242.52 for the electrical work that respondent performed, and that the evidence supported the finding that respondent was both the “contractor” and the “owner” of the property for purposes of the pre-lien notice, the Court of Appeals concluded that respondent was entitled to judgment and appellant was not entitled to pre-lien notice. Affirmed.

A22-1293 Accredited Elec. Solutions, LLC v. PinPoint Homes, LLC (Ramsey County)




Joint & Several Liability

In this appeal following a jury trial of respondent-plaintiff’s slip-and-fall negligence claim, appellants, hotel and its independent contractor, challenged the District Court’s decision to enter judgment jointly and severally against them for 60% of the jury’s verdict. After the jury found respondent 40% at fault for her injuries, hotel 20% at fault, and independent contractor 40% at fault, the District Court determined that (1) hotel was vicariously liable for independent contractor’s negligence based on a land possessor’s nondelegable duty to provide safe premises and (2) hotel and independent contractor were jointly and severally liable under the common-scheme-or-plan exception to several liability. The Court of Appeals discerned no error in either of the District Court’s determinations, concluding that independent contractor was performing hotel’s nondelegable duty to respondent to maintain a safe lobby when it was cleaning the floors. Affirmed.

A22-0815 Massert v. Radisson Blue MOA, LLC (Hennepin County)



Criminal Precedential



Dangerous Weapons

The state charged alleged “take-over” organizer defendant with two counts of second-degree riot, armed with a dangerous weapon. The charges rested on the state’s theory that cars are dangerous weapons during planned intersection takeovers where some participants spin their cars in “donuts” dangerously close to onlooking revelers while passengers hang outside the spinning cars from open windows. The District Court dismissed the charges for lack of probable cause that the cars constituted dangerous weapons, reasoning that the state’s allegations and supporting facts did not show that the cars “were . . . intentionally driven toward anyone” and were not driven “in a manner to cause the passengers hanging out of [them] to fall or be thrown from [them].”

The Court of Appeals held that (1) a charge of second-degree riot under Minn. Stats. § 609.71, subd. 2, can survive a motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause over the defendant’s assertion that cars are not dangerous weapons under § 609.02, subd. 6, if the state presented facts showing that the defendant knew that the cars would be driven with passengers hanging from them and in a reckless manner dangerously close to onlookers during an illegal intersection “take-over;” and (2) if a car is used in a manner that qualifies it as a dangerous weapon under § 609.02, subd. 6, the person so using the car during a riot is “armed with a dangerous weapon” under the second-degree riot statute. Reversed and remanded.

A22-1551, A22-1552 State v. Abdus-Salam (Hennepin County)



Criminal Nonprecedential



Probable Cause

In this prosecution pretrial appeal, the state challenged a District Court order granting defendant’s motion to suppress evidence and dismissing two counts of second-degree driving while impaired (DWI) on the ground that police arrested respondent without probable cause. Noting defendant’s belligerent behavior both at the time that he moved the cars and when he spoke with officers, the strong smell of alcohol that police observed when talking with defendant, defendant’s evasiveness about whether he had been drinking, and his untruthful claim that his companion had driven and parked the vehicles, the Court of Appeals concluded that the record established probable cause for the arrest, despite the gap in time of approximately 40 minutes between when defendant had been driving and when officers encountered defendant. Reversed and remanded.

A22-1412 State v. MacElree (Scott County)



Controlled Substance Crimes

Sufficiency of the Evidence

Defendant argued that her conviction of aiding and abetting first-degree sale of a controlled substance must be reversed because of insufficient circumstantial evidence. The Court of Appeals concluded that co-conspirator and the undercover officer’s testimonies constituted direct evidence that defendant knew about the sale of methamphetamine and intentionally aided co-conspirator to commit that crime. Affirmed.

A22-0566 State v. Bauler (Yellow Medicine County)





Defendant argued that his conviction for second-degree murder must be reversed because the District Court abused its discretion by permitting the admission of irrelevant threat evidence and that this error was not harmless. At the end of her testimony, during direct examination, the eyewitness testified that she had received multiple calls threatening her based on her testifying in the trial, but indicated that she had no reason to believe defendant was behind these threats. The Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion by the District Court because the threat evidence had probative value, was introduced with an appropriate safeguard in place, and the state’s use of the evidence was minimal. Affirmed.

A22-0316 State v. Maye (Hennepin County)




Batson Challenges

Defendant faced trial on charges of first-degree aggravated robbery and third-degree assault after he and his companions attacked a passerby in downtown Minneapolis and stole his case of beer and groceries. The prosecutor removed a potential juror, who was a Black woman, using a peremptory strike during jury selection. The District Court allowed the juror’s removal over defendant’s allegation that the prosecutor was seeking to remove her because of her race, deeming the prosecutor’s proffered removal reason—the juror’s statement expressing a religious-based reluctance to pass judgment on others—sufficiently race-neutral. Defendant argued on appeal that allowing the juror’s removal violated his constitutional rights. The Court of Appeals held that the District Court did not clearly err by finding that defendant failed to establish that the prosecutor’s race-neutral reason for removing the juror was a pretext for racial discrimination. Affirmed.

A22-0527 State v. Bartu (Hennepin County)




Stays of Execution

In this sentencing appeal, defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by imposing 10-year stays of execution of his sentences for theft and arson without identifying substantial and compelling reasons to depart from the presumptive five-year stays under the sentencing guidelines. He also argued that the District Court abused its discretion by ordering that he pay $1,168,727.45 in restitution, including minimum monthly payments of $100 during his probation. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court abused its discretion by departing from the sentencing guidelines without identifying substantial and compelling reasons, and imposition of the presumptive sentences was thus required. However, the District Court did not abuse its discretion when ordering restitution. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A22-0870 State v. Kaufman (Becker County)

Leave a Reply