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The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction for first- and second-degree murder on an aiding-and-abetting theory. The Court held (1) even if it was error for the district court to admit into evidence Appellant’s statement to police, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the district court plainly erred by giving a no-adverse-inference instruction to the jury without Appellant’s consent, but the error was not prejudicial; and (3) assuming, without deciding, that the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument by “indirectly alluding” to Appellant’s failure to testify, the prosecutor’s argument was not prejudicial. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The tax court correctly dismissed the appeals brought by several cooperatives (the Cooperatives) challenging the valuation orders of the Commissioner of Revenue for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 tax years because the appeals were not filed within the sixty-day deadline for appeals from orders of the Commissioner. On appeal, the Cooperatives argued that the two appeal paths provided by Minn. Stat. 273.372(2) effectively establish the single deadline of April 30 of the year in which the tax becomes payable. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the Cooperatives’ view that a single filing deadline governs all appeals under section 273.372 fails because the plain language of that statute establishes two different filing deadlines, depending on the appeal path chosen; and (2) the Cooperatives’ notices of appeal were governed only by a sixty-day deadline, and therefore, the tax court properly dismissed the appeals as untimely. View "Lake Country Power Cooperative v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) that the compensation judge failed fully to consider the extent to which each of Respondent’s employers sought to shift liability to the other employer and that it was error to deny Respondent’s motion for fees under Minn. Stat. 176.191(1). In 2015, Respondent filed a workers’ compensation claim for work-related aggravations to a low-back condition resulting from a work-related injury in 2009. Between the 2009 injury and later aggravations sustained in 2014 and 2015, Respondent’s employer and its insurer changed. When Respondent sought benefits for later aggravations sustained in 2014 and 2015, her 2009-employer and her new employer disputed whether the aggravations were a continuation of the 2009 injury or subsequent injuries for which the new employer and its insurer were liable. The compensation judge held the new employer liable for reasonable benefits for the later injuries but denied Respondent’s claim for fees under section 176.191(1). The WCCA reversed the denial of the motion for fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the efforts by each employer to shift responsibility to the other employer greatly increased the burden on Respondent’s counsel to provide effective representation, and therefore, Respondent was entitled to receive reasonable attorney fees under the statute. View "Hufnagel v. Deer River Health Care Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the forfeiture-of-office provision of the Minnesota Open Meeting Law, under which pubic officials who violate the Open Meeting Law may be removed from office, requires three separate, serial adjudications, other than three concurrently filed actions alleging separate, intentional Open Meeting Law violations. Under Minn. Stat. 13D.06(3), the forfeiture-of-office provision of the Open Meeting Law, Minn. Stat. 13D.01-.07, if public officials are found to have intentionally violated the statute “in three or more actions” they may be removed from office. Residents of the City of Victoria successfully proved that certain officials, collectively, committed thirty-eight Open Meeting Law provisions. These violations were found after a single trial resulting from consolidation of five separate lawsuits filed by the residents. The district court declined to remove the officials from office, concluding that three separate adjudications were required. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the forfeiture-of-office provision is not triggered unless three separate, sequential adjudications result in findings of three separate, unrelated Open Meeting Law violations. View "Funk v. O’Connor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that four irrevocable inter vivos trusts (the Trusts) lacked sufficient relevant contacts with Minnesota during the relevant tax year to be permissibly taxed, consistent with due process, on all sources of income as “resident trusts.” The Trusts filed their 2014 Minnesota income tax returns under protest, asserting that Minn. Stat. 290.01(7b)(a)(2), the statute classifying them as resident trusts, was unconstitutional as applied to them. The Trusts sought refunds for the difference between taxation as resident trusts and taxation as non-resident trusts. The Commissioner of Revenue denied the refund claims. The Minnesota Tax Court granted summary judgment for the Trusts, holding that the statutory definition of “resident trust” violates the Due Process Clauses of the Minnesota and United States Constitutions as applied to the Trusts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, for due process purposes, the State lacked sufficient contacts with the Trusts to support taxation of the Trusts’ entire income as residents. View "Fielding v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Minnesota Tax Court affirming the order of the Commissioner of Revenue that assessed Terrance Sargent’s income tax liability for tax years 2010-2014, holding that Sargent’s arguments on appeal were without merit. On appeal, Sargent argued that Minnesota’s income tax violates the Minnesota Constitution and the United States Constitution on several grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed the Minnesota Tax Court's decision after considering all of Sargent’s arguments, holding that they each were without merit. View "Sargent v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Commissioner of Revenue properly invoked her alternative-apportionment authority under Minn. Stat. 290.20(1) and applied an alternative apportionment method that fairly reflected the income of Associated Bank, N.A. and its affiliates (the Bank) allocable to Minnesota. The Bank, which included two LLC partnerships under Wisconsin law, objected to the Commissioner’s assessment of additional state corporate franchise tax liability for tax years 2007 and 2008. The Bank had calculated the tax owed based on the relevant statutes for apportioning income to Minnesota. The Commissioner found that applying the general apportionment formula to the LLCs did not “fairly reflect” the Bank’s “taxable net income allocable” to Minnesota. Accordingly, the Commissioner invoked her authority under section 290.20(1) and applied an alternative apportionment method to correct a distortion of reported income. After exhausting its administrative remedies, the Bank appealed to the tax court. Relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in HMN Financial, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue, 782 N.W.2d 558 (Minn. 2010), the tax court agreed and reversed the Commissioner’s order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) HMN Financial is not dispositive; and (2) the Legislature plainly gave the Commissioner the authority to use an alternative apportionment method under the circumstances presented here. View "Associated Bank, N.A. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Security Bank & Trust Company (Security Bank) lacked standing both in its capacity as personal representative of Gordon P. Savoie’s estate and in its capacity as trustee of the Gordon P. Savoie Revocable Trust to bring this legal malpractice action related to estate planning services for its deceased client. In its complaint, Security Bank alleged that Larkin, Hoffman, Daly & Lindgren, Ltd. (Larkin) failed to advise Savoie that his estate would be subject to a substantial generation-skipping transfer tax upon a distribution to a beneficiary who was more than thirty-seven years younger than him. The district court granted Larkin’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, determining that Savoie lacked standing either as personal representative or as trustee. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Security Bank had standing as personal representative because a cause of action for legal malpractice accrued to Savoie during his lifetime, and therefore, survived to Security Bank. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a cause of action for malpractice did not accrue during Savoie’s lifetime and therefore did not survive to Security Bank; and (2) Security Bank could not state a claim for legal malpractice against Larkin in its capacity as trustee. View "Security Bank & Trust Co. v. Larkin, Hoffman, Daly & Lindgren, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In a complaint seeking an injunction for breach of contract, the district court was not required to find irreparable harm based solely on the language of a private agreement and did not abuse its discretion by declining to grant an injunction in light of the absence of evidence of irreparable harm. St. Jude Medical sued Heath Carter and Boston Scientific Corporation after Carter left his job at St. Jude to work for Boston Scientific, alleging that Carter had violated his employment agreement with St. Jude. The agreement stated that if Carter breached its terms, St. Judge would suffer irreparable injury, and St. Jude would be entitled to an injunction against Carter and his new employer because St. Jude’s remedy at law for damages would be inadequate. The district court concluded that St. Jude was not entitled to an injunction because, although Carter breached the agreement, St. Jude failed to demonstrate that it would suffer irreparable harm from that breach. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the district court erred by failing to consider the terms of the agreement when deciding whether to enjoin Carter. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court was not required to exercise its equitable authority simply by reason of the contract language. View "St. Jude Medical, Inc. v. Carter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Supreme Court has applied the rule of contra proferentem - “a doctrine that ambiguities in a contract are to be construed unfavorably against the drafter” - only after an attempt is made to determine the parties’ intent behind an ambiguous term, and only if a preponderance of the evidence does not prove the parties’ intent should the jury construe ambiguous terms against the drafter. In this breach of contract case, the district court instructed the jury to determine whether two contracts were ambiguous and, if so, to both determine the intent of the parties and construe ambiguous terms against the drafter. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, determining that the canon of contra proferentem was to be applied only after the evidence failed to reveal the mutual intent of the parties. The Supreme Court held that the jury instruction in this case materially misstated the law twice by directing the jury to (1) determine whether the contracts at issue were ambiguous, rather than instructing the jury that the contracts were ambiguous; and (2) both determine the intent of the parties and construe ambiguous terms against the drafter without specifying which task must be completed first. View "Staffing Specifix, Inc. v. TempWorks Management Services, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts