Articles Posted in Minnesota Supreme Court

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Appellant suffered injuries after being hit by another driver. The at-fault driver’s liability insurer paid Appellant $100,000, the full amount available under the policy. Appellant made a settlement demand on State Farm, with whom he had an underinsured-motorist policy that also had a $100,000 coverage limit. State Farm offered less than $30,000 to settle the claim. Appellant filed a complaint against State Farm alleging breach of contract and claiming that he was entitled to the full amount recoverable under the policy. The district court ultimately entered judgment in the amount of $98,800. Thereafter, Appellant amended his complaint to add a claim under Minn. Stat. 604.18, which authorizes the award of “taxable costs” when an insurer denies benefits without a reasonable basis. The district court concluded that State Farm had denied Appellant insurance benefits without a reasonable basis. The court then determined that the “proceeds awarded” to an insured under section 604.18 are capped by the insurance policy limit. The court of appeals affirmed after determining that the state was ambiguous. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 604.18 unambiguously caps “proceeds awarded” at the amount recoverable under the insurance policy. View "Wilbur v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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American Family Insurance Company (American Family) issued automobile insurance policies to policyholders that were later injured in automobile accidents. The policy contained an anti-assignment clause, but, in order to obtain medical treatment, the policyholders assigned their interests in basic economic loss benefits to their medical provider, Stand Up Multipositional Advantage MRI, P.A. (Stand Up). Stand Up filed suit against the policyholders, their attorneys, and American Family for failing to make payment directly to Stand Up in accordance with the assignments. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, concluding that the anti-assignment clause was unenforceable, and therefore, the assignments to Stand Up were valid. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the anti-assignment clause was valid and precluded the assignments the policyholders made to Stand Up. View "Stand Up Multipositional Advantage MRI, P.A. v. American Family Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Mark Juelich and Steven Thoemke, former employees of Toyota-Lift of Minnesota, Inc. (TLM), claimed that TLM failed to pay them commissions they earned under their employment agreements with TLM. Juelich and Thoemke sought penalties under Minn. Stat. 181.14. The district court determined that TLM owed additional commissions to Juelich and Thoemke totaling $104,000 and that TLM was entitled to recover $815,000 from American Warehouse Systems, LLC (AWS) due to AWS’s breach of an asset purchase agreement entered into by AWS and TLM and its unjust retention of customer payments owed to TLM. The district court denied the request of Juelich and Thoemke for penalties under section 181.14, reasoning that the $814,000 judgment owed to TLM from AWS offset the unpaid commissions owed to Juelich and Thoemke. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that TLM was liable for statutory penalties under section 181.14. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that when a court determines whether an employer is liable to an employee for the statutory penalty for nonpayment of wages under section 181.14, the court may not consider offsetting liabilities owed by the employee to the employer. View "Toyota-Lift of Minnesota, Inc. v. American Warehouse Sys., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) contracted with Mathy Construction Company for a public highway project. Mathy subcontracted with Storms, Inc. for excavation and fill work. After Storms completed its work, MnDOT issued a deductive change order reducing Mathy’s contract amount by $327,064 because of errors in the estimated quantities of excavation and fill required for Storms’ work. Mathy reduced Storms’ subcontract by the same amount. Storms subsequently sued Mathy for the reduction in the subcontract price. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Storms, concluding that Mathy had breached the subcontract. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Mathy did not breach its subcontract with Storms by issuing a corresponding deductive change order to Storms. View "Storms, Inc. v. Mathy Constr. Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant Patrick Figgins brought suit against respondent Grand Rapids State Bank (GRSB) and its CEO, respondent Noah Wilcox, claiming, among other things, that Wilcox and GRSB had made misrepresentations and breached an oral agreement regarding the due date of a payment on an outstanding loan. Respondents moved to dismiss on the ground that Minn. Stat. 513.33 (2014) did not permit these claims. The district court agreed and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. Figgins, on appeal, argued that section 513.33 did not apply to his claims and, to the extent it did, his promissory estoppel claim should have survived because promissory estoppel was an exception to the statute. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Figgins vs. Wilcox" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether truck drivers hauling asphalt cement from a commercial oil refinery to a contractor’s facility are performing “work under a contract” under Minn. Stat. 177.44(1) and, therefore, must be paid prevailing wages. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MDOT) determined that the construction companies that were awarded contracts to work on state highway projects violated the project contracts by failing to ensure that drivers that assisted in the acquisition and transport of asphalt cement for the projects were paid prevailing wages. Appellants argued that the hauling activities of these drivers did not constitute “work under a contract” under Minn. Stat. 177.44(1) and, alternatively, that the hauling activities were exempt from the prevailing wage requirements under the “commercial establishment exception” in the Prevailing Wage Act. The district courts granted summary judgment to MDOT. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that hauling activities must be to, from, or on the site of a public works project to qualify as “work under a contract,” and therefore, the hauling activities in this case did not constitute “work under the contract” subject to the prevailing wage requirements. View "J.D. Donovan, Inc. v. Minn. Dep’t of Transp." on Justia Law

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Appellants’ homeowners insurance policy with State Farm Fire and Casualty Company provided that State Farm will be only the “actual cash value” at the time of the loss of damaged property. Appellants brought a putative class action lawsuit against State Farm, claiming that State Farm breached the terms of Appellants’ policy when it calculated the actual cash value of damaged property. Specifically, Appellants alleged that State Farm’s practice of depreciating embedded labor costs breached State Farm’s duty to indemnify the insured for the actual cash value of the damaged property. The district court certified a question regarding the issue to the Supreme Court. The Court answered that, absent specific language in the insurance policy that identifies the method of calculating actual cash value, the trier of fact may consider, among many other factors, embedded-labor-cost depreciation when such evidence logically tends to establish the actual cash value of a covered loss. View "Wilcox v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co." on Justia Law

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The apartment building in which Tenants lived was damaged by a fire. For purposes of this appeal, the parties agreed that the fire was caused by Tenants’ negligence. Landlord’s insurer paid for the repairs to the building and then brought this subrogation action against Tenants in the name of Landlord to recover the money it paid to repair the damage caused by the fire. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Tenants, determining that the parties did not reasonably expect that Tenants would be liable for the damage they caused. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the lease agreement clearly reflected the parties’ intention that Tenants would reimburse Landlord for any damage caused by their negligence. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, it is reasonable that Tenants should be liable for negligence they caused to the leased premises; but (2) the parties would not reasonably have expected that Tenants would be liable for damage to other property belonging to Landlord. Remanded. View "Melrose Gates, LLC v. Moua" on Justia Law

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Appellant represented a client pursuant to a contingent-fee agreement but voluntarily withdrew from the representation of the client when efforts to settle the case failed. The client subsequently retained substitute counsel, and substitute counsel successfully negotiated a settlement. Appellant filed suit seeking to recover in quantum meruit the value of the services provided prior to withdrawal. The district court entered judgment against Appellant, concluding that Appellant was not entitled to recover in quantum meruit because he failed to establish good cause for withdrawal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an attorney may withdraw from a contingent-fee agreement with or without cause, provided that the withdrawal satisfies the rule of professional responsibility; (2) the attorney may recover in quantum meruit the reasonable value of the services rendered prior to withdrawal if the attorney establishes that the withdrawal is for good cause; and (3) Appellant in this case failed to establish good cause. View "In re Petition for Distribution of Attorney’s Fees between Stowman Law Firm, P.A., and Lori Peterson Law Firm" on Justia Law

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Lyon filed a breach of contract action against Illinois Paper in federal district court, alleging that Illinois Paper had breached a contractual representation and warranty that all lease transactions presented to Lyon for review would be "valid and fully enforceable agreements." The Seventh Circuit certified questions to the court under Minn. Stat. 480.065. The court reformulated the questions and held that a claim for breach of a contractual representation of future legal compliance is actionable under Minnesota law without proof of reliance. View "Lyon Financial Services, Inc. v. Illinois Paper and Copier Co." on Justia Law