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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

May 2020

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, May 4, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Kristina Greene, et al., Respondents/Cross-Appellants vs. Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services, et al., Appellants/Cross-Respondents – Case No. A18-1981: Respondents/cross-appellants Kristina Greene, et al. are personal care attendants who provide home-based services to participants in state programs. Since 2016, respondents have sought to decertify a statewide union of personal care attendants. In connection with their decertification efforts, respondents have attempted to obtain a list containing the names and addresses of individual providers, which the Commissioner of Human Services compiles and maintains pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 256B.0711, subd. 4(f) (2018). Respondents filed a lawsuit to obtain access to the list. In addition to granting injunctive relief, the district court granted in part respondents’ motion for summary judgment. The district court ruled that appellants/cross-respondents Minnesota Department of Human Services and Minnesota Management and Budget violated the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 13.01–.90 (2018), by failing to provide the list to respondents. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the “personnel data” of the individual providers is subject to disclosure under the Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. § 13.43, because they are designated as state employees for purposes of the Public Employment Labor Relations Act, Minn. Stat. § 179A.54, subd. 2 (2018), and separately concluded that respondents do not meet the statutory criteria to receive access to the list under Minn. Stat. § 179A.54, subd. 9 (2018).

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether respondents are entitled to contact information for the individual providers under Minn. Stat. § 13.43; (2) whether Minnesota Management and Budget can be held liable for violating the Data Practices Act; and (3) whether respondents are entitled to the list under Minn. Stat. § 179A.54, subd. 9. (Ramsey County)

Nonoral: Amanda Lee Peltier, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A19-1685: Appellant Amanda Lee Peltier was convicted of first-degree murder while committing child abuse in connection with the death of her 4-year-old stepson. The evidence presented at trial in support of the conviction included Peltier’s admissions to abusing her stepson, testimony from Peltier’s biological son who witnessed the abuse, and testimony from medical experts describing the nature of the injuries causing the child’s death. On direct appeal, the supreme court affirmed the conviction, State v. Peltier, 874 N.W.2d 792 (Minn. 2016), reasoning that any errors at the trial did not affect Peltier’s substantial rights.

Peltier then filed a petition for postconviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. In particular, Peltier claimed that her trial counsel failed to provide adequate legal advice regarding the elements of first-degree murder or the strength of the evidence against her. Peltier contended that if she had received proper advice, she would have pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree rather than going to trial. The postconviction court held a hearing on the petition and concluded that trial counsel’s advice fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, because “in presenting the ‘good and the bad’ [they] did not advise Peltier that any ‘good facts’ would literally drown in the cesspool of ‘bad’ facts.” But the court held that Peltier was not prejudiced by the inadequate performance of her counsel, because there was no evidence the State would have accepted a plea to second-degree murder: Peltier never offered to plead to second-degree murder, the State never stated that it would accept such a plea, and at the time the plea would have been made, a grand jury was about to indict Peltier for first-degree murder.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Peltier’s trial counsel’s performance was objectively unreasonable; and (2) whether there was a reasonable possibility that the outcome would have been different but for counsel’s errors. (Pope County)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Darryl Dewayne Gibson, Jr., Appellant – Case No. A19-0675: In 2018, Darryl Gibson was charged with aggravated forgery after a police officer conducted a traffic stop of Gibson’s vehicle and discovered a computer, a printer, a package of blank checks, and several identification cards for unknown individuals inside of the vehicle. During the omnibus hearing, Gibson argued that the officer’s basis for stopping his vehicle, failing to stop in front of a stop line in violation of Minn. Stat. §169.30(b) (2018), was not lawful. The district court agreed with Gibson and dismissed the charge. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed the district court’s decision.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue is whether a law enforcement officer can initiate a traffic stop of a vehicle for failing to stop in front of a stop line in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.30(b). (Nobles County)

Nonoral: Margaret Jaafaru, Respondent vs. Cerenity Senior Care and Berkley Risk Admin. Co., Relators – Case No. A19-1870: While respondent Margaret Jaafaru was descending a staircase on the premises of her employer, relator Cerenity Senior Care, she felt a “pop” and immediately experienced pain in her left knee. She sought medical care, and was eventually diagnosed with osteoarthritis and a torn meniscus. Jaafaru later had arthroscopic surgery to treat the issues with her left knee, underwent physical therapy, and later returned to work.

Jaafaru sought workers’ compensation benefits, which Cerenity opposed. The matter came to a formal hearing before a compensation judge. At the hearing the issues were whether Jaafaru had experienced an injury that arose out of her employment, and whether the surgery was reasonable and necessary due to, and causally related to, such injury. The compensation judge denied Jaafaru’s claims, finding that the stairs on Cerenity’s premises did not increase Jaafaru’s risk of injury and that her injury did not arise out of her employment.

Jaafaru appealed, and the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for further proceedings. It reasoned that the compensation judge failed to make a finding on the issue of causation, i.e., whether Jaafaru’s injury was caused by her use of the stairs, and remanded for a finding on that issue. It further reasoned that the compensation judge erred by treating the arising-out-of-employment question as an issue of fact rather than of law, and ruled that “an employee’s use of stairs increases his or her risk of injury” as a matter of law.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Jaafaru’s injury was caused by her use of the stairs; and (2) whether Jaafaru experienced an injury that arose out of her employment. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Michael J. Quinn, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0089011 – Case No. A18-1890: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the case.

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Kent Frederick Strunk, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0288391 – Case No. A19-0917: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the case.

 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Deborah J. Palmer, surviving spouse and Trustee for the heirs of Gary J. Palmer, Appellant vs. Walker Jamar Company, Respondent, Honeywell International, Inc., Respondent – Case Nos. A18-2114, A19-0155: Gary Palmer died of malignant mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused illness, in March of 2015. Mr. Palmer was aware of the mesothelioma diagnosis, and that mesothelioma is an asbestos-related disease, by January of 2012. Appellant Deborah Palmer is his surviving spouse and trustee for his heirs and next of kin. In this action, appellant asserted that one of the sources of asbestos that caused his illness and death was exposure to brake pads manufactured by the Bendix Corporation, the predecessor-in-interest to respondent Honeywell International, Inc.

Appellant commenced this lawsuit in February of 2018. The district court granted summary judgment to Honeywell on the basis that appellant’s claims against Honeywell were time-barred. Relying on the decision in Dalton v. Dow Chemical Co., 158 N.W.2d 580, 583–85 (Minn. 1968), the district court concluded that appellant’s claims accrued when Mr. Palmer discovered, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered, that he had an asbestos-related injury, a point no later than January of 2012. Because the longest statute of limitations applicable to any of appellant’s claims was six years, the court concluded that appellant’s February 2018 lawsuit was too late. The district court rejected appellant’s argument that the claims did not accrue until Mr. Palmer’s illness could be specifically tied to the brake pads manufactured by Bendix. The court of appeals affirmed on the same basis, also relying on the decision in DeCosse v. Armstrong Cork Co., 319 N.W.2d 45, 52 (Minn. 1982).

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether an asbestos-related wrongful death action accrues when the decedent is aware of an asbestos-related injury, even if the identity and responsibility of the particular defendant is not yet known. (Ramsey County)

 

Nonoral: Jill Kohler, Relator vs. Douglas County Hospital and MN Counties Intergovernmental Trust/Self-Insured, Respondents – Case No. A19-1481: Relator Jill Kohler was employed part-time as a registered nurse for respondent Douglas County Hospital from January 1991 through July 2017. In 2001 she began to receive regular chiropractic care. She received workers’ compensation benefits related to workplace injuries that occurred in 2007, 2008, and 2009, in connection with, respectively, catching a falling patient, being grabbed and shaken by a belligerent patient, and slipping and falling on a patch of ice in the hospital’s parking lot.

Kohler continued to experience pain from 2010 to 2017. After retiring in July 2017, Kohler’s symptoms continued to worsen, and eventually she was referred for spinal surgery. She submitted a medical request to respondents, seeking authority for the surgery and invoking the three previous injuries as the basis for the request. Respondents asked Kohler to submit to an independent medical examination by Dr. Eric Deal, who concluded that neither the requested surgery, nor the other treatments that Kohler had been receiving for neck pain, were causally related to her workplace injuries. Respondents therefore denied the request. Kohler eventually underwent a five-level spinal fusion in May 2018, and reported good results from the surgery.

Subsequently Kohler filed a medical request seeking payment for the surgery. The matter went to a compensation judge, who concluded after a hearing that the surgery was not reasonable, necessary, or causally related to Kohler’s work-related injuries of 2007, 2008, or 2009. Kohler appealed, arguing that Dr. Deal’s opinion, on which the compensation judge had relied, lacked foundation; and that the compensation judge improperly expanded the issues by finding that Kohler’s work injuries were temporary and had resolved, thereby extinguishing primary liability for the injuries. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that Dr. Deal’s opinion had adequate foundation and that the compensation judge made no finding affecting primary liability.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the compensation judge improperly expanded the issues to question primary liability; and (2) whether the expert opinion had adequate foundation. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Meagan Abel, Appellant vs. Abbott Northwestern Hospital, et al., Respondents, St. Mary’s University Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A19-0461: Appellant Meagan Abel brought discrimination and negligence claims against respondents Allina Health System and St. Mary’s University Minnesota. The claims arose out of alleged harassment that Abel experienced during her practicum as a doctoral student in psychology at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. The district court granted Allina’s motion to dismiss Abel’s claims for failure to state a claim and granted St. Mary’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the district court did not err by dismissing Abel’s discrimination claims under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat. §§ 363A.01–.44 (2018), as untimely and for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals also concluded that the district court did not err by dismissing Abel’s negligence claims based on a determination that neither Allina nor St. Mary’s owed a duty to protect her.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the complaint sufficiently pleaded a continuing violation of the MHRA; (2) whether the complaint sufficiently pleaded a claim of discrimination under the MHRA in the areas of employment, education, or public accommodation; and (3) whether the complaint sufficiently pleaded a negligence claim. (Hennepin County)

Nonoral: Larry Demetrius Pearson, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A19-1897: In April 2006, appellant Larry Demetrius Pearson shot and killed C.M. Three days later he was charged by complaint with second-degree murder; a grand jury eventually indicted him for first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree murder of C.M., attempted second-degree murder of W.M. (C.M’s brother), and being a felon in possession of a firearm. At trial, Pearson claimed self-defense. A jury found him guilty on the murder and possession charges but not guilty on the attempt charge, and he was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of release. Pearson filed a petition for postconviction relief and a direct appeal, which were consolidated before the supreme court, which affirmed. State v. Pearson, 775 N.W.2d 155 (Minn. 2009). He filed a second postconviction petition, which was dismissed; the supreme court affirmed. State v. Pearson, 891 N.W.2d 590 (Minn. 2017).

In March 2019 Pearson filed this, his third postconviction petition, alleging that he was unable to obtain a copy of a hearing transcript from an August 28, 2006 hearing when the initial second-degree murder charge was dismissed, because his initial postconviction and appellate counsel did not obtain it, and the recording had been destroyed after the 10-year preservation period ended. He asserts that this transcript would show that the second-degree murder charge was dismissed because his speedy-trial rights had been violated, and that the district court therefore lacked jurisdiction to try him on the grand jury indictment; he also asserts that his appellate counsel and his prior postconviction counsel were ineffective because they failed to request this transcript. The postconviction court held that the first two claims were both time-barred under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2018), and procedurally barred under State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn. 1976). With respect to the third claim, the postconviction court found that claim lacked merit because there is no constitutional right to postconviction counsel.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Pearson’s claims are time-barred and Knaffla-barred; and (2) whether Pearson’s claim for ineffective assistance of postconviction counsel is valid. (Ramsey County)

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Daniel J. Moulton, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0136888 – Case No. A19-0444: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the case.

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Richard Edward Bosse, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0245501 – Case No. A19-0595: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the case.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

In re the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of: J.D.T. and J.M.O., Parents – Case No. A19-1253: Grant County Social Services filed a petition to involuntarily terminate mother’s parental rights in March 2019. Three days before the scheduled trial on the County’s petition, mother filed a petition to voluntarily terminate her parental rights, stating the reasons why she had concluded that she was currently and for the foreseeable future unable to comply with the duties imposed by the parent-child relationship. The County opposed the petition to voluntarily terminate, asserting that good cause to voluntarily terminate parental rights was not shown, and given the timing of the two petitions, the district court should first consider whether the County had met its burden of proof for an involuntary termination before considering mother’s voluntary petition.

The district court found that mother did not establish good cause under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(a) (2018), for a voluntary termination, and thus denied her petition to voluntarily terminate parental rights. Then, the district court granted the County’s petition to terminate, finding that the conditions that led to the out-of-home placement had not been corrected and the children’s needs and best interests required termination.

Mother appealed, asserting that the district court erred in denying her voluntary petition because the court improperly considered the effect of an involuntary termination on her ability to parent future children and erred in its “good cause” finding. She also asserted that the district court erred in failing to allow her voluntary-termination petition to “supersede” or convert the County’s involuntary-termination proceeding to a voluntary termination proceeding.

The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the district court did not err in denying the petition for voluntary termination under the facts of this case. The court also concluded that a parent cannot convert an involuntary proceeding into a voluntary termination proceeding, particularly when doing so may not be consistent with the child’s best interests.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the petition to voluntarily terminate parental rights converted the County’s involuntary proceeding to a voluntary proceeding; and (2) whether the petition to voluntarily terminate parental rights established good cause for termination. (Grant County)