Assault & Battery
Statute of Limitations
Appellant challenged the District Court’s summary-judgment dismissal of his intentional-tort claims against respondents as barred by the two-year statute of limitations in Minn. Stat. § 541.07(1), arguing that his claims did not accrue until he learned the identities of the alleged tortfeasors. The Court of Appeals rejected the argument that the identity of the alleged tortfeasor was required to trigger accrual and concluded that, because appellant did not bring his claims within two years of suffering some damage, they were barred by the statute of limitations. Affirmed.
Child Custody; Reunification Therapy
In this parenting-dispute case, appellant-father argued that the District Court (1) abused its discretion by denying his motion for reunification therapy; (2) improperly modified his legal-custody rights; and (3) abused its discretion by denying his motion for contact with and information about the children. Noting that father had other ways to exercise his parenting time with children, such as phone contact at the children’s discretion, the Court of Appeals concluded that father was not entitled to reunification therapy. However, the District Court abused its discretion by denying father’s motion to receive information about the children. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Third-Party Custody; Findings
The District Court ordered sole physical custody of a child to his grandmother and joint legal custody to his grandmother and father. In this appeal of the order by the child’s mother, the mother did not identify findings of fact that she believed were erroneous and argued unconvincingly that the statutory elements to establish third-party custody were not met. Noting that the findings included that appellant verbally abused the child almost daily, the Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the District Court’s findings that appellant’s outbursts were disturbing and harmful to the child. Affirmed.
In this certiorari appeal, relator challenged the decision of a panel of three administrative-law judges on his complaint alleging campaign-practice violations. Relator argued that the panel erred by (1) determining that relator failed to establish probable cause for a claim asserted under Minn. Stat. § 211B.04 and (2) imposing an insufficient penalty against respondent. The Court of Appeals concluded that the OAH did not err by assessing a $50 penalty for the reporting violation or a $100 penalty with regard to the door hangers, but the OAH erred by determining that relator failed to establish probable cause for a lawn-sign claim. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Appellant raised both a legal and a factual challenge to the District Court’s decision to forfeit his ownership interest in a vehicle driven by a person arrested for and convicted of driving while impaired (DWI). Appellant argued that the District Court erred as a matter of law when it considered the driver’s prior driving record and that the district erred as a factual matter when it determined that appellant knew the driver would drive the vehicle. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant’s legal challenge lacked merit because it was unsupported by any legal authority and was contrary to the plain language of the statute, and that the District Court did not clearly err in making its factual findings. Affirmed.
Human Service Licensing
In this certiorari appeal, pro se relator challenged a decision by the commissioner of respondent Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) declining to set aside relator’s disqualification from direct-contact employment with licensed facilities. The Court of Appeals concluded that, absent documentation of relator’s ongoing compliance with his probation conditions, substantial evidence supports the commissioner’s determination that it was too soon to set aside the disqualification. Affirmed.
Landlord & Tenant
In this appeal after remand in a dispute over leased farmland, appellant-tenants made the following two arguments: (1) the District Court erred when it awarded respondent contract-based attorney fees after determining that the lease was void, and (2) the District Court erred when it awarded respondent costs pursuant to statute. Noting that respondent incurred attorney fees as part of the litigation to determine whether the lease was void, not separate from such litigation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court properly awarded contract-based attorney fees. However, the District Court erred in awarding costs. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
In this appeal from a partial judgment under Minn. R. Civ. P. 54.02, appellants challenged the District Court’s grant of summary judgment for respondents, law firm and attorneys. on appellants’ legal-malpractice and fraud claims. Appellants argued that the District Court erred by (1) concluding they were required to show “but for” causation in a legal-malpractice claim; and (2) applying Minn. R. Civ. P. 9.02 at the summary judgment stage to conclude that appellants failed to plead fraud with particularity. By notice of related appeal, respondents, as cross-appellants, argued that the District Court erred by denying their motion for partial summary judgment on appellants’ remaining claims that required appellants to prove “but for” causation. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err in dismissing appellants’ legal malpractice claim because appellants failed to show “but for” causation, but that the District Court erred in dismissing appellants’ fraud claim because the District Court did not properly conduct a judgment analysis. The Court also concluded that the District Court erred in denying summary judgment on appellants’ remaining claims that involve a showing of “but-for” causation. But the District Court did not err in denying respondents’ motion to dismiss on appellants’ respondeat superior claim. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Breach of Contract
Statute of Limitations
Pro se appellant challenged the District Court’s dismissal of all respondents based on the statute of limitations. The action arose out of a work-related vehicle accident in 2014. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because appellant’s claims arose from a stipulation agreement that was signed by the parties in late June 2015, and approved by the workers’ compensation judge before the end of June, the District Court did not err when it determined that appellant’s claims were time-barred. Affirmed.
The Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) determined that respondent-firefighter was duty disabled under Minn. Stat. § 353.01, subd. 41, requiring relator-city to continue providing health-insurance coverage under § 299A.465 after respondent suffered a knee injury while responding to a structure fire. City appealed from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decision affirming PERA’s determination. The Court of Appeals concluded that § 353.01, subd. 41, was ambiguous and therefore deferred to PERA’s reasonable interpretation. And thus, the ALJ did not err by relying on PERA’s interpretation of the statute and determining that respondent’s injury qualified as a duty disability. Affirmed.
Temporary Restraining Orders
Appellant Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) challenged the District Court’s denial of its motion to dissolve a temporary restraining order (TRO) that barred the DOC from requiring respondents—who are incarcerated individuals on conditional medical release (CMR)—from returning to prison pending their lawsuit against the DOC. The DOC argued that the District Court lacked authority to continue the TRO because the issues in the underlying lawsuit were now moot and because the District Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. Alternatively, the DOC contended that the District Court abused its discretion in considering the motion to dissolve the TRO. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the DOC’s argument that its individualized assessments rendered respondents’ claims moot as the claims in respondents’ amended complaint were broader than the DOC represented and accepting the DOC’s mootness argument would require the Court to prematurely resolve the merits of respondents’ legal claims. The Court concluded that the District Court had authority to continue the TRO, and it did not abuse its discretion in evaluating the continued need for the TRO. Affirmed.
Appellant, as trustee for her daughter’s next of kin, challenged the summary-judgment dismissal of her wrongful-death negligence action against respondent Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the ground of recreational-use immunity. The action arose out of daughter’s drowning at the age of nine in an artificially created swimming pond at in a state park while participating in a summer youth program run by respondents. Appellant contended that the District Court erred in granting the DNR’s motion for summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether the trespasser exception to recreational-use immunity applied. Noting that, even if the deeper portion of the pond presented a danger beyond the inherent danger of water, the undisputed evidence established that the DNR did not have reason to believe that a trespasser would not discover the danger given the ropes and buoys and the topographical maps, the Court of Appeals concluded that appellant did not offer evidence sufficient to create a dispute of fact regarding a hidden dangerous condition, the DNR had no duty to warn and the trespasser exception to recreational-use immunity did not apply. Affirmed.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
A woman reported to police that she had been brutally beaten by her boyfriend, defendant. Following a stipulated-evidence bench trial, the District Court convicted defendant of third-degree assault, domestic assault by strangulation, and making threats of violence. Defendant asserted that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of these crimes. He also contended that the District Court abused its discretion by excluding evidence of the woman’s prior suicide attempt and suicidal ideations, and by admitting evidence that defendant previously killed the woman’s cat. Noting that defendant’s evidence-insufficiency argument rested solely on the alleged incorrectness of the District Court’s credibility assessments to which it generally deferred on appeal, the Court of Appeals rejected the argument. And because the District Court acted within its discretion by excluding evidence of the woman’s prior suicide attempt and suicidal ideations and by admitting the evidence that defendant boasted about killing the woman’s cat, his evidentiary arguments fail. Affirmed.
Defendant appealed from judgments of conviction, following his third jury trial, for five counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Defendant argued that (1) he was entitled to a new trial because the District Court judge was disqualified from presiding after assisting the state during the second trial, (2) his conviction for count 4, second-degree criminal sexual conduct, must be reversed because it violated constitutional and statutory double jeopardy, (3) he was entitled to reversal and remand for the imposition of a single guidelines sentence because the District Court erred by imposing multiple sentences for offenses that were part of the same behavioral incident, (4) during the third trial, defendant was improperly tried for two new counts, requiring reversal of those convictions, (5) his criminal-history score was inaccurate, making his sentence illegal, and (6) his 792-month sentence was excessive.
The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court’s grant of his motion to dismiss count 4 for lack of probable cause before the second trial constituted an acquittal and that constitutional and statutory double jeopardy protections barred defendant’s prosecution for count 4 in the third trial. Furthermore, defendant’s criminal-history score must be recalculated. As for the remaining issues, the Court of Appeals discerned no error. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Following his conviction for illegal possession of a firearm, defendant argued that the District Court’s abuse of discretion in admitting relationship evidence and multiple graphic photographs warranted a new trial. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court abused its discretion in admitting evidence of defendant’s domestic conduct under Minn. Stat. § 634.20 because the state did not charge defendant with a domestic-conduct-related offense, and the admission of three graphic photographs admitted for the same purpose was unnecessarily cumulative and unfairly prejudicial to defendant. However, there was no reasonable possibility that, but for these errors, the verdict would have been different. Affirmed.
Helpful to Jury
Defendant grabbed his girlfriend’s hair and kicked her in the side after she accused him of taking her marijuana and searched his bedroom for it. The jury found defendant guilty of two counts of felony domestic assault and one count of third-degree assault, and the District Court convicted him on all three counts. Defendant appealed his convictions, contending that the District Court erred by admitting expert testimony and the girlfriend’s unredacted medical records identifying him as her assailant. He also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence of one of his felony-domestic-assault convictions. He argued finally that the District Court erroneously convicted him on two counts of felony domestic assault. Noting that the expert’s testimony did not contain the stereotypes about male and female perpetrators that the Court found held impermissible in a recent case, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court’s evidentiary decisions fell within its discretion or were harmless. But the District Court should have entered only one felony-domestic-assault conviction. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Fleeing an Officer
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Defendant challenged his convictions of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle and receiving stolen property, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he (1) was the person fleeing police and (2) knew or had reason to know the tractor was stolen. The Court of Appeals concluded that, even if the officer’s observation was fleeting or limited, his identification of defendant was amply corroborated by other evidence, including that defendant’s wallet, driver’s license, and Social Security card were found in the vehicle minutes after the pursuit ended. Furthermore, unexplained possession of property that was recently stolen is alone sufficient to support a finding that the person possessing it knew the property was stolen. Affirmed.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
In this direct appeal from a judgment of conviction for third-degree sale of a controlled substance, defendant argued that she received ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, defendant contended that her attorney should have elicited more detailed testimony from her at trial. The Court of Appeals concluded that decisions by the attorney about what information to elicit at trial were part of a reasonable trial strategy. Affirmed.
Criminal History Score
Defendant pleaded guilty to controlled-substance possession but challenged the calculation of his criminal-history score before sentencing. The District Court denied his challenge and sentenced him to 25 months in prison based on a criminal-history score of eight points. Defendant appealed his sentence, arguing that the District Court miscalculated his criminal-history score by errantly including four of his prior convictions. The Court of Appeals concluded that none of defendant’s challenges persuaded it to disturb his sentence. Affirmed.
Defendant pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide after drunkenly crashing his pickup truck head-on into another vehicle, killing its driver. Defendant moved for a downward dispositional departure from the sentencing guidelines, asking that the District Court stay his presumptively executed prison sentence and place him on probation. The District Court denied the motion for a departure and imposed a sentence within the presumptive range. Defendant appealed, maintaining that the District Court abused its discretion by denying his departure motion. Noting that the record fully supported the District Court’s basis for rejecting defendant’s claim that he was particularly amenable to probation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court properly sentenced defendant within its discretion. Affirmed.
Defendant contended that the District Court abused its discretion by granting the state’s motion for an upward dispositional departure and imposing an executed 36-month sentence for his conviction for third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence in the record was sufficient to support the District Court’s finding that the victim’s history and circumstances rendered her particularly vulnerable to a sexual assault and that defendant was aware of this vulnerability. Affirmed.
In this direct appeal from final judgment of convictions for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, defendant argued that the District Court erred by instructing him to wait to complete his cross-examination of two witnesses until after the defense rested and the state recalled them as rebuttal witnesses. The Court of Appeals concluded that (1) a structural error did not occur and (2) defendant was not entitled to relief under the plain-error doctrine. Affirmed.
Reasonable Articulable Suspicion
The State challenged the District Court’s order suppressing evidence and dismissing charges of driving while impaired (DWI) against defendant, arguing that (1) the District Court clearly erred by discrediting the law-enforcement officer’s testimony about physical indicia of intoxication, and (2) even without such indicia, the circumstances of the traffic stop justified an inquiry about alcohol consumption. Noting that the body-worn recording supported the District Court’s findings, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not clearly err by finding the trooper’s testimony as to indicia of intoxication not credible. Furthermore, the circumstances added up to little more than a hunch that defendant was impaired. Affirmed.
Reasonable Articulable Suspicion
A police officer stopped behind defendant’s parked car after learning from convenience-store employees that defendant had just been in the store loudly making aggressive and vulgar comments to one of the employees before driving away drunk. The officer asked defendant to submit to field sobriety testing, and defendant refused. The officer arrested defendant and searched the car, discovering a half-empty bottle of liquor near the driver’s seat. The state charged defendant with driving while intoxicated and with unlawfully possessing an open container of alcohol. Defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress evidence obtained from the stop, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him. The Court of Appeals held that a reasonable officer would have suspected that defendant was driving while intoxicated. Affirmed.
Criminal Order Opinions
In this appeal from the denial of postconviction relief, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that petitioner’s postconviction petition was procedurally barred under Knaffla, as petitioner was aware of the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims at the time of his direct appeal and he could have, and should have, raised them then. Affirmed.
In this appeal from the denial of postconviction relief, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court appropriately concluded that the issues raised in petitioner’s petition were procedurally barred under Knaffla, as the issues raised in the petition were identical to the issues raised and addressed by this court in petitioner’s direct appeal. Affirmed.