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Court of Appeals Digest: July 24, 2023

Minnesota Lawyer//July 27, 2023

The Minnesota Judicial Center stands in the Capitol complex in St. Paul. (File photo)

Court of Appeals Digest: July 24, 2023

Minnesota Lawyer//July 27, 2023

Civil Precedential


Medical Assistance


In this certiorari appeal, relator challenged a decision by the Commissioner of Human Services determining that relator was responsible for overpayments of Minnesota Health Care Programs funds.

The Court of Appeals held that Minn. Stat. § 256B.064, subd. 1c, authorizes the Commissioner of Human Services to recover funds paid to a Minnesota Health Care Programs vendor when the funds were “improperly paid” as a result of conduct constituting “abuse” as defined by Minn. R. 9505.2165, subp. 2. A determination that abuse has occurred alone does not allow recovery. The statute also requires a determination that the vendor was improperly paid the funds sought to be recovered. Here, the Commissioner made no determination that relator was improperly paid. Reversed in part and remanded.

A22-1688 In re SIRS Appeal by Best Care, LLC (Office of Admin. Hearings)



Civil Nonprecedential



Figurative Speech

Appellant-employer challenged the grant of summary judgment dismissing its claims of defamation brought against respondents—two labor organizations and a former employee of appellant. The alleged defamatory statements were included in a blog post and flyer that described complaints filed with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office (AGO) by current and former employees of appellant. The complaints alleged that appellant had engaged in unlawful wage-payment practices. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of respondents on the ground that the alleged defamatory statements were either true or substantially true. Appellant asserted that the District Court erred because it failed to view the evidence in the light most favorable to appellant, ignored material issues of fact, and misapplied the law in determining that use of words such as “massive” and “many thousands” were mere hyperbole and thus not actionable. Appellant also challenged the denial of its motion to compel respondents to disclose the identities of the individuals who filed complaints with the AGO. By notice of related appeal, respondents asserted that the District Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over appellant’s claims because they are preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Noting that, in context, the use of the word “massive” fit easily within the category of nonactionable figurative or hyperbolic speech, and that many of the statements were true, the Court of Appeals discerned no error in the District Court’s conclusion that the statements were substantially true. Affirmed

A22-1588 Madison Equities, Inc. v. SEIU MN State Council (Ramsey County)




Vicarious Liability

Appellant brought a vicarious-liability claim and three direct-negligence claims—negligent supervision, negligent retention, and negligence—against respondent school district based on alleged sexual abuse by her former teacher. The District Court granted the school district’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed appellant’s claims. Noting evidence that teacher initiated his advances towards appellant using activity that directly related to his legitimate duties as her teacher, the Court of Appeals concluded that genuine issues of material fact existed for each of the four claims. Reversed and remanded.

A22-1736 Doe v. Special School Dist. No. 6 (Dakota County)




Election Law

Campaign Practices

Shortly before the November 2022 election, relator filed a complaint against respondents, the mayor of Buffalo, and two others, alleging that their campaign materials and fundraising practices violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act. An administrative law judge dismissed the complaint without a hearing, concluding that the complaint failed to set forth a prima facie case for violations of the Act. The Court of Appeals concluded that relator’s complaint did not set forth a prima facie violation of the portions of the Act governing bribery, treating, and solicitation, but relator’s complaint set forth a prima facie case that mayor’s Twitter profile page, Facebook profile page, and certain social-media posts may violate the Act’s provisions governing required disclaimers. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A22-1664 Siljander v. Lachermeier (Office of Admin. Hearings)



Statute of Limitations

In this dispute arising out of succession planning for a co-owner of a business following the co-owner’s death, pro se appellant argued that the District Court erred by (1) granting summary judgment to respondents, co-owner’s wife and lawyers, on his fraud claim based on collateral estoppel and the statute of limitations and (2) dismissing his legal-malpractice claims based on the statute of limitations. Appellant further contended that the District Court abused its discretion by denying his motions to compel discovery and for a continuance. The Court of Appeals concluded that the fraud and malpractice claims were time-barred by the applicable statutes of limitations, and there was no abuse of discretion in the procedural matters. Affirmed.

A23-0055 Shimota v. Kemp & Stanton, PLLP (Dakota County)



Real Property

Statute of Limitations

Appellants sued the owners of two neighboring properties and a residential developer/builder (respondents) for damages allegedly caused by water flowing from the neighboring properties onto appellants’ property. Appellants sought review of the District Court’s order dismissing the action and determining that the complaint was barred by the statute of limitations. Appellants argued, inter alia, that the District Court erred because the complaint alleged facts that, if accepted as true, showed respondents may be estopped from asserting a statute-of-limitations defense. Noting that appellants’ complaint alleged that respondent made repairs after certificates of occupancy were issued for the neighboring properties, the Court of Appeals concluded that appellants’ complaint alleged facts that, if accepted as true, supported an estoppel claim in response to respondents’ statute-of-limitations defense. Reversed and remanded.

A22-1729 Waller v. Galloway Holdings., LLC (Washington County)



Civil Order Opinions



Deemed Dismissals

On appeal from summary judgment issued in creditor’s favor in this action arising out of appellant’s failure to pay his student loans, appellant sought relief from the District Court judgment under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02. Noting that this rule did not authorize an appellate court to provide direct relief, and that appellant did not raise this argument below, the Court of Appeals considered the arguments forfeited. Affirmed.

A22-1751 Reunion Student Loan Fin. Corp. v. Davison (Ramsey County)




Criminal Precedential


Warrantless Searches

Automobile Exception


On appeal from his conviction for first-degree controlled-substance offenses, defendant challenged the District Court’s denial of his pretrial motion to suppress evidence recovered from a lockbox that was removed from defendant’s impounded vehicle in the presence of law enforcement six days after defendant’s arrest and the vehicle’s impoundment.

The Court of Appeals held that, when law enforcement lawfully impounds a motor vehicle after a search for firearms under the automobile exception reveals controlled substances, law enforcement retains the authority to further search the vehicle and any containers in it that may contain firearms or controlled substances while the vehicle remains in the custody and control of law enforcement and no facts or circumstances suggest that the search has become less reasonable in the six days following the vehicle’s impoundment. Affirmed.

A22-1115 State v. Schell (Douglas County)



Criminal Nonprecedential



Probable Cause

On appeal from his conviction for possessing a firearm as an ineligible person, defendant challenged the existence of probable cause for his warrantless arrest. The Court of Appeals concluded that the police had probable cause to believe he committed criminal damage to property by obscuring pavement markings with tire marks caused by doing “donuts” and “burnouts” with his vehicle. Affirmed.

A22-1430 State v. Shelton (Hennepin County)




Sufficiency of the Evidence

A jury found defendant guilty of first-degree burglary based on evidence that he entered the home of a woman who recently had ended a long-term relationship with him and committed domestic assault by making a threat that caused her to fear immediate death. Defendant argued that his statement to the victim did not show that he intended to threaten her with immediate death but with death at some time in the future. Noting that defendant’s threat could reasonably be interpreted only as a threat that was intended to cause the victim to fear that, if she called the police to report defendant’s violation of the DANCO, he would kill her, the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. Affirmed.

A22-1154 State v. Rosas (Polk County)


Criminal Sexual Conduct

Sufficiency of the Evidence

In this direct appeal from a conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court of Appeals concluded that any inconsistencies in the victim’s testimony did not provide a reason for concluding that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. Affirmed.

A22-1453 State v. Diaz (Hennepin County)



Ineffective Assistance of Counsel


Petitioner appealed the denial of her petition for postconviction relief from her conviction on one count of racketeering and one count of aiding and abetting the sex trafficking of an individual. Petitioner argued that she received ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing and thus entered a guilty plea that was not intelligent. Noting that appellant failed to show a reasonable probability the outcome would have been different if defense counsel had timely translated and then introduced at sentencing messages between petitioner and her co-defendants, the Court of Appeals concluded petitioner failed to show any prejudice from the purported ineffective assistance. Affirmed.

A23-0121 Navas v. State (Washington County)



Plea Withdrawal

Voluntary & Intelligent

Defendant challenged the validity of his guilty plea for one count of felony violation of a domestic-abuse no-contact order (DANCO). The Court of Appeals concluded that, because defendant had a full opportunity to consult counsel before entering his plea, he was adequately informed of his rights, and his plea was accurate, voluntary, and intelligent. Affirmed.

A22-1586 State v. Ross (Stearns County)



Postconviction Relief

Newly Discovered Evidence

Petitioner appealed the District Court’s denial of his postconviction petition without an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner challenged his first-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction based on the victim’s partial recantation of some of her trial testimony. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court abused its discretion by summarily denying petitioner’s newly-discovered-evidence claim because the petition alleged facts that satisfied the newly-discovered-evidence exception to the postconviction statute and warranted an evidentiary hearing. However, the remainder of petitioner’s postconviction claims were barred by law. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A22-1642 Kingbird v. State (Beltrami County)

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