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Court of Appeals Digest: Oct. 23, 2023

Minnesota Lawyer//October 26, 2023//

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

Court of Appeals Digest: Oct. 23, 2023

Minnesota Lawyer//October 26, 2023//

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Civil Nonprecedential



Authority of Arbitrator

An arbitrator issued a decision favoring a union of hospital employees, interpreting their collective bargaining agreement to preclude the hospital from using nonunion contract workers for periods longer than six months despite language affording the hospital the authority to do so. The District Court confirmed the award. This decision was on remand from a divided Minnesota Supreme Court opinion reversing the Court of Appeals’ decision that the arbitrator exceeded the expressly limited power conferred by the agreement and purported to resolve a nonexistent contract contradiction in a manner that nullified a bargained-for term. The majority decision directed the Court to address the hospital’s alternative argument that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by invading the hospital’s inherent managerial rights. Because the arbitrator necessarily determined that the hospital voluntarily bargained on subcontracting, and because the arbitrator’s decision drew its essence from the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, the Court of Appeals rejected the hospital’s inherent-managerial-rights argument. Affirmed.

A21-1079 Hennepin Health Sys., Inc. v. AFSCME Minn. Council 5 (Hennepin County)



Domestic Relations

Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights

In these consolidated appeals from the District Court’s termination of parental rights, appellants argued that the record did not support the District Court’s determinations that (1) they failed to satisfy the duties of the parent-child relationship, (2) they were palpably unfit parents, (3) they failed to satisfy their case plans, and (4) termination was in the children’s best interests. Noting that father had been unable to demonstrate consistent control over his substance use and abusive behavior, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion by determining that the department proved by clear and convincing evidence that parents have neglected their parental duties. Affirmed.

A23-0633, A23-0636 In re Welfare of Children of R.G.B. (Olmsted County)



Premises Liability

Open and Obvious Danger

Appellant brought a negligence claim against respondent building owner for personal injuries she sustained when she slipped and fell on ice in the area of the building’s parking lot during a visit to a store in the building. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of respondent. Appellant argued that the District Court (1) erred by dismissing her claim on summary judgment based on its determinations as a matter of law that the ice patch was an open and obvious danger and that respondent had no reason to anticipate that she would walk on the ice despite the danger and (2) abused its discretion by denying her motion to amend the complaint to add the store as a defendant to the case. Noting that no evidence contracted the statements that the ice patch could be seen right away when looking at the ground where appellant fell, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding the open and obvious condition of the ice patch. Affirmed.

A23-0445 Thompson v. VIP Floral, Inc. (Murray County)



Civil Order Opinions


Landlord & Tenant

Red Judicata

In this second appeal arising from a landlord-tenant dispute, tenant challenged the District Court’s summary-judgment dismissal of her claims against landlord based on res judicata and collateral estoppel. Noting that the District Court explained how each of tenant’s claims was addressed by the District Court in the prior case and in the first appeal, the Court of Appeals concluded that summary judgment in favor of landlord was proper. Affirmed.

A23-0490 Kottschade v. Mokua (Olmsted County)




Criminal Precedential


Illegal Ammunition Possession


Defendant challenged his conviction of being an ineligible person in possession of ammunition in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subd. 1b(a). Defendant asserted that the District Court violated his constitutional right to present a complete defense when it barred his attorney from arguing that the state had to prove that defendant knew that the ammunition he possessed was operable.

The Court of Appeals held that, to prove that a defendant is guilty of being an ineligible person in possession of ammunition under § 609.165, subd. 1b(a), the state must prove that the defendant knowingly possessed the ammunition but does not have to prove that the defendant knew the ammunition was operable. Affirmed.

A22-1744 State v. Lyons (Itasca County)



Criminal Nonprecedential


Child Pornography

Sufficiency of the Evidence

In this direct appeal from the judgment of conviction for multiple offenses related to child pornography, defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew or should have known that his phone contained child pornography. Noting that defendant’s Facebook account uploaded child pornography from his phone and that defendant was the only known person with permission to use the Facebook account that uploaded the child pornography, the Court of Appeals concluded that the circumstances proved at trial supported an inference of guilt, and defendant’s purported hypothesis other than guilt relied upon mere conjecture. Affirmed.

A22-1763 State v. Williams (Isanti County)





Following his conviction for attempted second-degree murder, defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of a rap music video posted on YouTube and that the warrant of commitment incorrectly reflected a conviction for a crime for which the jury returned a not-guilty verdict. Noting that the video evidence was relevant to link defendant to a gang that was associated with the shooting, the Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion in admitting the video. Furthermore, the introduction of such evidence was otherwise harmless, and any error in the warrant of commitment was already corrected. Affirmed.

A22-1477 State v. FoFana (Hennepin County)




Statements by Party Opponent

Defendant challenged her conviction for multiple counts of theft by false representation, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion in admitting defendant’s time sheets into evidence because they were inadmissible hearsay that did not fall under a hearsay exception. Noting that defendant herself wrote the relevant statements on her timesheets, as she stated when and where she worked and her signature attested to the truth of those statements, the Court of Appeals determined that the timesheets were admissible as statements by a party opponent. Affirmed.

A22-1504 State v. Hassan (Hennepin County)



Probation Revocation

Seriousness of Violations

Defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of possessing pornographic work involving minors. He received a stayed sentence and was placed on probation. The District Court later revoked defendant’s probation after finding that he committed four violations of conditions of his probation. Noting that defendant was prohibited from contacting his 18-year-old stepdaughter as part of his probation, but that he contacted her within a week of sentencing and was living with her a month after sentencing, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by finding that continuing defendant on probation would unduly depreciate the seriousness of his probation violations. Affirmed.

A23-0334 State v. Megraw (Mower County)



Criminal Order Opinions



Inherent Authority

Petitioner challenged the denial of her request to expunge her conviction for second-degree assault. Noting that petitioner sought expungement based on the court’s inherent authority, but that the District Court’s order denying the petition contained no reference to the request for expungement based on inherent authority, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court’s order was not supported by sufficient findings. Reversed and remanded.

A23-0181 State v. A.M.S. (Dakota County)




Postconviction Relief

Evidentiary Hearings

Petitioner challenged the denial of his petition for postconviction relief from his conviction for violation of a harassment restraining order (HRO), arguing that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing. The Court of Appeals concluded that the postconviction claims were either raised and decided in petitioner’s direct appeal or were known and could have been raised either on appeal or in his initial petition for postconviction relief. Affirmed.

A22-1739 Fredin v. State (Ramsey County)






Petitioner appealed the District Court’s denial of his motion to correct his 2016 sentence for second-degree drug possession—which expired in July 2019—arguing that the District Court relied on an incorrect criminal history score. The Court of Appeals concluded that a District Court has no authority to correct an expired sentence, and petitioner’s sentence was below the presumptive sentencing range even as calculated using the criminal history score that he proposed. Affirmed.

A23-0456 Haakenstad v. State (Hennepin County)






Petitioner challenged the District Court’s order denying his motion to vacate a restitution order imposed on his convictions for four counts of theft-by-swindle. Petitioner argued that his restitution obligation to his former employer was satisfied as a matter of law when he settled the civil lawsuit with the employer’s insurer. Noting that, regardless of the settlement between petitioner and employer’s insurer, it remained true that, as a result of petitioner’s swindle, employer incurred an out-of-pocket loss in the amount of the deductible on its insurance policy, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court correctly determined that the settlement agreement between petitioner and employer’s insurer did not release petitioner from his court-ordered obligation to pay restitution to employer for its deductible. Affirmed.

A23-0131 Johnson v. State (Hennepin County)




Upward Departures

In an earlier appeal, defendant’s upward durational departure for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct based on zone of privacy was reversed in part, but the zone-of-privacy aggravating factor was affirmed. On appeal after remand, defendant again challenged the zone-of-privacy factor. The Court of Appeals concluded that this was governed by the law-of-the-case doctrine. Affirmed.

A23-0695 State v. Bloomquist (Hennepin County)




Walking Upon Road


Defendant challenged his conviction for unlawfully walking along and upon an adjacent roadway based on his standing on a roadway median and extending his arm into the traffic to collect money from drivers. The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that a median was part of the roadway for purposes of Minn. Stat. § 169.21, subd. 5. Affirmed.

A23-0269 State v. Herrick (Dakota County)

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