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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

January 2017

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

John Wilbur, Appellant vs. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Respondent – Case No. A15-1438: Appellant John Wilbur was injured in an automobile accident and sought underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits from respondent State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. When the parties could not resolve the UIM claim, Wilbur brought a breach-of-contract action against State Farm. Wilbur rejected a subsequent offer of settlement, the case went to trial, and the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Wilbur.

Following the jury verdict, the district court found State Farm liable for unreasonably denying UIM benefits under Minn. Stat. § 604.18 (2016). The district court determined that Wilbur was entitled to recover $36,000 pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 604.18, subd. 3(a)(1), which permits the district court to award “taxable costs” to an insured in “an amount equal to one-half of the proceeds awarded that are in excess” of the amount offered by the insurer before the trial began. The court of appeals affirmed the award of taxable costs, concluding that the phrase “proceeds awarded” in Minn. Stat. § 604.18, subd. 3(a)(1), means “the amount of the judgment entered by the district court as UIM benefits.”

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the phrase “proceeds awarded” in Minn. Stat. § 604.18, subd. 3(a)(1), means (a) the jury’s net award after collateral source offsets, even when that amount exceeds the policy limit; or (b) the amount of insurance policy proceeds awarded. (Hennepin County)

Ashland Inc. and Affiliates, Respondent vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Relator – Case No. A16-1257: When reporting income to the Commissioner of Revenue, respondent Ashland Inc. and Affiliates included the income and apportionment factors of Hercules SARL, an entity organized under the laws of Luxembourg, which was a wholly-owned subsidiary of an Ashland subsidiary. Because Hercules SARL had elected to be disregarded as a separate entity for federal income tax purposes, Ashland concluded that Hercules SARL was not a “foreign corporation” or “other foreign entity” for purposes of Minn. Stat. § 290.17, subd. 4(f) (2016), which provides that “[t]he net income and apportionment factors . . . of foreign corporations and other foreign entities which are part of a unitary business shall not be included in the income and apportionment factors of the unitary business.” The Commissioner disagreed with Ashland’s position, excluded the income and apportionment factors of Hercules SARL from the combined reports of Ashland, and assessed Ashland with additional tax, penalty, and interest for tax years 2009, 2010, and 2011. Ashland appealed to the Minnesota Tax Court, which granted summary judgment in favor of Ashland.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the income and apportionment factors of Hercules SARL, a foreign disregarded entity, are properly included in the combined reports of its owner, Ashland. (Minnesota Tax Court)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Tony Webster, Appellant vs. Hennepin County and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Respondents – Case No. A16-0736: Appellant Tony Webster sought information from respondents Hennepin County and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office regarding use of biometric technologies and made requests under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 13.01–.90 (2016). Later he filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings seeking a finding that respondents violated the Act and seeking to compel respondents to conduct a keyword search of their e-mails and produce the results. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) granted Webster relief.

Respondents filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the court of appeals, seeking review of the ALJ’s decision. Respondents also sought, from the ALJ, a partial stay of the ALJ’s order pending the certiorari appeal. The ALJ granted the stay, citing Minn. Stat. § 14.65 (2016), Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 108, State v. Northern Pacific Railway, 221 Minn. 400, 22 N.W.2d 569 (1946), and DRJ, Inc. v. City of St. Paul, 741 N.W.2d 141 (Minn. App. 2007). Webster then moved the court of appeals to lift the stay with respect to production of the e-mails, arguing both that the Act requires prompt access to government data, whereas requiring him to wait for the result of the appeal would not be prompt, and that the ALJ did not correctly apply Northern Pacific Railway. The court of appeals denied the motion.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the lower courts properly applied the appropriate standard when granting, and refusing to lift, the stay. (Hennepin County)

In re the Application for an Administrative Search Warrant, City of Golden Valley – Case No. A15-1795: After landlords and tenants refused to consent to an inspection of their property under a rental-housing inspection ordinance, the City of Golden Valley applied to the district court for an administrative search warrant. The district court denied the application after the City conceded that it had no individualized suspicion of any code violations at the property. The court of appeals reversed and remanded.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Article I, § 10, of the Minnesota Constitution requires individualized suspicion for a warrant to search a home for code violations. (Hennepin County)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Danna Rochelle Back, Respondent vs. State of Minnesota, Appellant – Case No. A15-1637: Respondent Danna Back was convicted of second-degree manslaughter (culpable negligence homicide), in connection with the shooting death of Daniel Holliday. Back did not herself shoot Holliday; the shooter was her former boyfriend, Nicholas Super, who was convicted separately of second-degree murder. The supreme court ultimately reversed Back’s conviction, holding that because she did not have a duty to control Super or to protect Holliday from Super, she could not be culpably negligent for failing to control Super’s criminal actions. State v. Back, 775 N.W.2d 866, 872 (Minn. 2009).

In December 2014, Back petitioned the district court to be declared eligible for compensation based on exoneration under the Minnesota Imprisonment and Exoneration Remedies Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 611.362–.368 (2016). Back argued that she is an “exonerated person” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 590.11, subd. 1(1)(i) (2016), which defines “exonerated,” in part, to mean that a Minnesota court “vacated or reversed a judgment of conviction on grounds consistent with innocence and the prosecutor dismissed the charges.” The district court denied the petition. A divided panel of the court of appeals reversed and remanded.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether Back’s conviction was reversed “on grounds consistent with innocence” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 590.11, subd. 1(1)(i); (2) whether the phrase “and the prosecutor dismissed the charges” in section 590.11, subdivision 1(1)(i), violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Minnesota Constitution; and (3) whether the Legislature intended the phrase “and the prosecutor dismissed the charges” to be severable from the statute. (Hennepin County)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Richard S. Eskola, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0123699 – Case No. A16-0269: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Jessica Kelly, as Trustee for the heirs and next-of-kin of Richard Roy Washburn, Deceased, Appellant vs. Kraemer Construction, Inc., Respondent – Case No. A15-1751: Richard Washburn was killed while on the job as an employee of Ulland Brothers, Inc., a general contractor that had subcontracted with respondent Kraemer Construction, Inc., on a bridge construction project. Appellant Jessica Kelly applied for and received workers’ compensation benefits on behalf of Washburn’s children. As trustee for Washburn’s heirs and next-of-kin, she also brought a wrongful death action against Kraemer based on negligence.

Kraemer moved for summary judgment, arguing that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the tort action because appellant elected to collect workers’ compensation benefits and because Ulland and Kraemer were engaged in a common enterprise at the time of the accident. See Minn. Stat. § 176.061, subds. 1, 4 (2016). The district court denied summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of Kraemer.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the court of appeals erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that Ulland and Kraemer were engaged in a common enterprise at the time of the accident—specifically, whether their employees were working together on a common activity, and whether they were exposed to the same or similar hazards. (St. Louis County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Tammy Jo Schoenrock, Appellant – Case No. A15-1371: Appellant Tammy Schoenrock was charged with theft by false representation. Appellant pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial. At trial, appellant argued the standard jury instruction misstated the elements of the charged offense because it did not include an intent-to-defraud element. The district court used the standard jury instruction. The jury found appellant guilty as charged, and the court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court’s jury instruction omitted an element of the charged offense. (Hennepin County)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Quintin Lynn Thomas, Appellant – Case No. A15-0708: Appellant Quintin Thomas was charged with second-degree driving while impaired (DWI). As part of the charged offense, the State was required to prove that two or more aggravating factors were present when the offense was committed. Because the State possessed certified copies of two qualified prior impaired driving incidents, defense counsel advised appellant to stipulate to the prior incidents to keep them from the jury. In spite of counsel’s advice, appellant chose not to stipulate to the prior incidents. After presenting the testimony of two police officers, the State rested its case without offering the certified copies into evidence. In response to appellant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal, the district court allowed the State to reopen its case and offer the certified copies into evidence. The jury found appellant guilty, and the court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court abused its discretion when it allowed the State to reopen its case in response to appellant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal. (St. Louis County)

Nonoral: Jerrell Michael Brown, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case Nos. A15-1402, A16-0648: In 2010, appellant Jerrell Brown was convicted of aiding and abetting first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang in connection with the 2008 shooting death of Darius Miller. After consolidating appellant’s direct appeal and his appeal of the denial of his first petition for postconviction relief, the supreme court affirmed appellant’s conviction. State v. Brown, 815 N.W.2d 609, 622 (Minn. 2012). In 2015, the district court summarily denied appellant’s second petition for postconviction relief. In 2016, the district court summarily denied appellant’s third petition for postconviction relief and denied his motions for discovery and retesting of evidence. The supreme court consolidated the two appeals.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court abused its discretion by denying appellant’s petitions for postconviction relief. (Hennepin County)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against John F. Bonner, III, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0009726 – Case No. A15-1813: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Alan Richard Stewart, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0313579 – Case No. A16-1309: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.