Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court held that groundwater is a Class 1 water under Minnesota law and therefore subject to secondary drinking water standards promulgated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).In 2018, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit to United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) governing U.S. Steel's Minntac Tailings Basin Area in Mountain Iron and setting a groundwater sulfate limit of 250 mg/L at the facility's boundary that U.S. Steel must meet by 2025. On appeal, U.S. Steel argued that the MPCA did not have the authority to impose the sulfate standard in the permit because the EPA's secondary drinking water standards apply only to bodies of water classified as Class 1 waters and that groundwater is not classified as Class 1. The court of appeals agreed and reversed the MPCA's decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) groundwater is a Class 1 water under Minnesota law; and (2) therefore, the MPCA correctly exercised its authority by applying the Class 1 secondary drinking water standards to the permit. View "In re Reissuance of NPDES/SDS Permit to United States Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court holding that the adoption of a comprehensive plan is not a proper subject of a claim under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA), Minn. Stat. 116B.01-.13, holding that adoption of a comprehensive plan can be the subject of a MERA claim and that Appellants' allegations were sufficient to state a claim under MERA.This appeal centered a claim challenging the City of Minneapolis's 2040 Comprehensive Plan, alleging that the City's adoption of the Plan violated the state's environmental law. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that because comprehensive plans are specifically exempt from environmental review under Minn. R. 4410.4600, comprehensive plans are also exempt from judicial review under MERA. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) rule 4410.4600 does not exempt comprehensive plans from environmental review under MERA; and (2) the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, state a claim upon which relief can be granted. View "State by Smart Growth Minneapolis v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting the City of Plainview's motion to dismiss Donald Hall's contract and statutory claims, holding that the City had a contractual obligation to pay accrued paid time off (PTO) to Hall.After the City terminated Hall's employment as manager of the City's municipal liquor store it refused to pay Hall accrued PTO due to Hall's failure to provide sufficient notice per the requirements of the City's personnel policies and procedures manual. Hall sued the City for breach of contract and violation of Minn. Stat. 181.13. The district court dismissed Hall's contract and statutory claims. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) disclaimer provisions in the City's employee handbook stating that the handbook's policies should not be construed as a contract did not unambiguously allow the City to refuse to pay accrued PTO in accordance with the employer policy set forth in the handbook; and (2) Minn. Stat. 181.13(a) does not create an independent substantive right to payment of accrued PTO in the absence of a contract between the employer and employee. View "Hall v. City of Plainview" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that he witnessed Defendant's workers violate safety protocols resulting in contamination of his home, holding that Minn. Stat. 541.051 barred Plaintiff's claims.Plaintiff hired Defendant to remove a broken boiler that was insulated with asbestos and his asbestos pipe insulation. On March 12, 2014, a report confirmed Plaintiff's allegation that Defendant's workers tracked asbestos through Plaintiff's home. Plaintiff, however, did not sue Defendant until April 20, 2018. The district court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that the two-year statute of limitations in section 541.051 barred Plaintiff's claims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's damages arose out of the defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property, and therefore, the two-year statute of limitations in section 541.051, subdivision 1(a) barred Plaintiff's claims. View "Moore v. Robinson Environmental, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case alleging that Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) failed to maintain and produce certain government data the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals holding that Plaintiff's complaint under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act was insufficiently pleaded and affirmed the court's holding that the Minnesota Official Records Act did not authorize a private cause of action, holding that the allegations of Plaintiff's complaint were sufficient.In his complaint, Appellant alleged that the actions of MnSCU violated both the Data Practices Act and the Official Records Act. The district court dismissed both claims, concluding that Appellant could not pursue judicial remedies under the Data Practices Act after obtaining an administrative remedy under the that and that the Official Records Act does not authorize a private cause of action. The court of appeals affirmed but decided the Data Practices Act issue on the alternate ground that the complaint was insufficiently pleaded. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Appellant's complaint was sufficiently pleaded; and (2) the Official Records Act does not authorize a private cause of action. View "Halva v. Minnesota State Colleges & Universities" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified as modified the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court denying Maria Molloy's motion to intervene in Pamela Spera's proceeding seeking enforcement of a divorce decree that dissolved her marriage to Rodney Miller, holding that Molloy had a right to intervene as to the valuation of Miller's retirement accounts.In the enforcement proceeding, Spera sought to have the retirement accounts she and Miller each held divided according to the terms of the divorce decree. Before Miller passed away, he named his four daughters - including K.M.M., the child he had with Molloy - as beneficiaries on his retirement accounts. Molloy sought to intervene in Spera's enforcement proceeding as a matter of right to assert K.M.M.'s interest in Miller's retirement accounts. The district court denied intervention. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the four requirements under Minn. R. Civ. P. 24.01 for intervention were met. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that Molloy's right to intervene was limited specifically to the valuation of Miller's retirement accounts. View "Miller v. Molloy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court reversing a transfer penalty imposed by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services on David Pfoser, a disabled Medicaid recipient who resided in a long-term care facility, after he transferred partial proceeds from the sale of a house into a pooled special-needs trust, holding that Pfoser made a satisfactory showing that he intended to receive valuable consideration for his transfer of assets.State and federal law impose a penalty on recipients, like Pfoser, of Medical Assistance for Long-Term Care benefits if they transfer assets for less than fair market value, but no penalty is imposed if the recipient makes a satisfactory showing that he intended to dispose of the assets either at fair market value or for other valuable consideration. See Minn. Stat. 256B.0595, subd. 4(a)(4). The Commissioner affirmed the transfer penalty imposed on Pfoser. The district court reversed, concluding that Pfoser received adequate compensation in the form of his vested equitable interest in the trust assets. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence did not support the Commissioner's decision to uphold the penalty. View "Pfoser v. Harpstead" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court finding that Minn. Stat. 617.261 was unconstitutional under the First Amendment, holding that the statute does not violate the First Amendment because it survives strict scrutiny.Defendant was charged with a felony-level violation of Minn. Stat. 617.261, the statute that criminalizes the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images. Defendant moved to dismiss the charge on constitutional grounds. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the conduct regulated by the statute is entirely unprotected obscene speech and that any degree of overbreadth was insubstantial. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the statute is unconstitutionally overbroad because it criminalizes a substantial amount of protected speech. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 617.261 prohibits more than obscenity; but (2) the restriction does not violate the First Amendment because it is justified by a compelling government interest and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest. View "State v. Casillas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the tax court dismissing Relator's appeal of an tax order sent by the Department of Revenue by regular mail, holding that sending a tax order by regular mail provides constitutionally sufficient notice.The Department sent Relator a tax order assessing sales and use taxes covering a three-year period. The order was sent by regular mail, as authorized by Minn. Stat. 270C.33, subd. 8. Relator appealed, asserting that he only became aware of the tax liability when his bank account was levied on by the Commissioner. The tax court granted the Commissioner's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Relator's notice was constitutionally sufficient. View "Olson v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a letter contesting a notice of zoning violation was not a "request" as defined by Minn. Stat. 15.99, subd. (1)(c) and therefore did not entitle respondent property owners to the benefit of the automatic approval provision in Minn. Stat. 15.99, subd. (2)(a).The automatic approval provision requires agencies to, within sixty days, approve or deny a written zoning request. Failure to deny such a request within sixty days is deemed an approval of the request. Respondents received notice of a zoning violation from the City of Shorewood after installing a dock and contested the zoning violation in a written letter to the city planning commission. The City did not respond. Thereafter, Respondents were charged by criminal complaint with two misdemeanor violations of the city code. The district court granted Respondents' pretrial motion to dismiss, concluding that Respondents' letter was a "request" under Minn. Stat. 15.99, subd. 1(c), and therefore, Respondents' request for zoning action was automatically approved by operation of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the letter was not a "request" under the statute. View "State v. Sanschagrin" on Justia Law