Before the Minnesota Supreme Court


March 2006




Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office



Monday, February 27, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Supreme Court Courtroom,

State Capitol



            The Travelers Indemnity Company, et al., Respondents vs. Bloomington Steel and Supply Co., et al., Defendants, Jose Padilla, Appellant – Case No. A04-1713:  Appellant Jose Padilla was assaulted by the owner of Bloomington Steel and Supply Co.  When appellant sued Bloomington Steel and the owner, the company tendered the claim against it to its insurers, respondents Travelers Indemnity Company and The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company, under its commercial general liability and umbrella insurance coverage.  The insurers denied coverage on grounds the owner’s actions and intent are imputed to Bloomington Steel, the owner had a history of violence in the workplace, and the insurance policies in question offer no coverage for bodily injuries that are “expected or intended” from the standpoint of the insured.  At issue on appeal is whether knowledge of an agent of a corporation may be imputed to the corporation for purposes of determining whether bodily injury was “expected or intended” from the standpoint of the corporation.  (On appeal from Hennepin County District Court.)


            State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Said Moussa Gouleed, Respondent – Case No. A04-700:  The State of Minnesota appeals from the reversal by the court of appeals of the conviction of respondent Said Moussa Gouleed for second-degree murder in the death of his infant daughter.  Respondent’s first trial ended in a mistrial over the defense’s failure to disclose medical tests conducted by its expert as to when the infant’s injuries occurred.  At issue is whether the declaration of a mistrial was a “manifest necessity,” or whether there were less drastic alternatives available to the district court that make respondent’s retrial double jeopardy.  (On appeal from Ramsey County District Court.)


Tuesday, February 28, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Supreme Court Courtroom,

State Capitol



            Wooddale Builders, Inc., Appellant vs. Maryland Casualty Company, d/b/a Zurich North America, Appellant vs. American Family Insurance, Appellant, Western National Insurance Group, Appellant vs. West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, Respondent, SafeCo, Respondent – Case Nos. A04-1442 and A04-1612:  Appellant Wooddale Builders, Inc., received numerous claims for damages due to water infiltration in homes it constructed during the 1990s.  During those years, Wooddale was insured at different times by each of the other appellants, American Family Insurance, West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, SafeCo, Zurich North America, and Western National.  The parties agree the obligation to indemnify Wooddale should be based on the “time on the risk” method, under which each insurer pays in proportion to the period of time it insured Wooddale compared to the entire period during which damages occurred.  At issue is when the damages period—and therefore each insurer’s “time on the risk”—ends, and how to allocate the cost of defending Wooddale against the homeowners’ claims.  (On appeal from Hennepin County District Court.)


            State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Charles Ray Barnes, Appellant – Case No. A05-810:  Appellant Charles Ray Barnes appeals from his conviction for first-degree domestic abuse murder, second-degree felony murder, and first-degree assault.  The sentence for first-degree domestic abuse murder is life imprisonment; the maximum sentence for third-degree murder under Minnesota’s Sentencing Guidelines is 156 months.  At issue is:  (1) whether the first-degree domestic abuse murder statute is unconstitutional because the culpable mental state required for first-degree domestic abuse (“extreme indifference to human life”) is not sufficiently different from that required for third-degree murder (an act done “without regard for human life”) to justify the disparities in their sentences; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion in denying appellant’s motion for a mistrial or for a continuance so that appellant could obtain a different expert witness.  (On appeal from Dakota County District Court.)



Wednesday, March 1, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Supreme Court Courtroom,

State Capitol



            David H. Toth, Appellant vs. Gerald Arason, Individually and d/b/a Arason’s Body Shop, Respondent – Case No. A04-769:  Appellant David H. Toth appeals from a decision of the court of appeals affirming judgment in his favor against respondent Gerald Arason and his business, Arason’s Body Shop, but denying appellant’s request for attorney fees.  After appellant’s truck was damaged in an accident, respondent was paid by appellant’s insurer for the cost of repairs using original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, but respondent installed less expensive after-market parts in the truck, which voided the manufacturer’s warranty.  At issue are:  (1) the calculation of appellant’s damages under Minnesota’s Truth in Repairs Act; (2) whether appellant is entitled to recover his attorney fees; and (3) whether respondent’s failure to inform appellant that the use of non-OEM parts would void the truck manufacturer’s warranty constitutes consumer fraud.  (On appeal from Koochiching County District Court.)


            State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Reginald Lee Gail, Appellant – Case No. A05-329:  Appellant Reginald Lee Gail appeals from his conviction for first-degree murder.  At issue are:  (1) whether the district court wrongly admitted evidence seized from the residence at which appellant was arrested, ten days after the shooting, because it was not appellant’s residence; (2) whether the district court wrongly admitted appellant’s cell phone records, which were obtained from Verizon under an “exigent circumstances request” rather than a subpoena or warrant; (3) whether the district court should have inquired into the manner in which the jury pool was selected, because African-Americans were underrepresented in it; (4) whether the district court should have instructed the jury on accomplice corroboration; and (5) whether the district court wrongly allowed the jury, which was sequestered during deliberations, to begin deliberations on a Friday afternoon.  (On appeal from Hennepin County District Court.)



Thursday, March 2, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Supreme Court Courtroom,

State Capitol



            State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Douglas Alan Dettman, Respondent – Case No. A04-975:  Respondent Douglas Alan Dettman pleaded guilty to one count of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and in March 2004 was sentenced to a prison term of 216 months, an upward durational departure from the presumptive sentence of 144 months, justified by the district court judge because of the particular cruelty with which respondent acted.  The State of Minnesota appeals from the court of appeals decision remanding the case for resentencing under Blakely v. Washington and Apprendi v. New Jersey.  At issue are:  (1) whether respondent waived or forfeited his rights under Apprendi and Blakely by not objecting to the upward durational departure at the time of sentencing; and (2) does the Blakely exception to the jury-findings requirement for admissions by the defendant apply to respondent’s statements to police, made after Miranda warnings, which were included in the criminal complaint and admitted by respondent as part of his guilty plea.  (On appeal from Olmsted County District Court)


            State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. James Derosier, Respondent – Case No. A03-1718:  Respondent James Derosier was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for having sex with a 15-year-old during the summer of 2000.  The presumptive sentence for first-degree criminal sexual conduct increased as of August 1, 2000, from 86 to 144 months.  Respondent did not ask the jury to determine when the offenses occurred and the victim could not remember exact dates, but the district court sentenced respondent to a term of 144 months on the implicit finding that at least one of the offenses occurred after August 1.  The court of appeals reversed and remanded for resentencing.  At issue is whether respondent’s sentence violates his rights under Blakely v. Washington because the judge, not the jury, determined when the offenses occurred.  (On appeal from Aitkin County District Court.)


            NONORAL:  Raymond M. Theobald, Relator, Shirley A. Theobald, Petitioner vs. County of Lake, Respondent – Case No. A05-1657:  Petitioners Shirley A. and Raymond M. Theobald appeal from a decision by the Minnesota Tax Court.  At issue is whether petitioners’ 11 parcels of real estate in Lake County should be valued separately, or as one parcel, for property tax purposes.  (On appeal from Minnesota Tax Court.)



Monday, March 6, 2006, 9:00 a.m, Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center



            Chris Nelson, Appellant vs. Productive Alternatives, Inc., Respondent – Case No. A04-1691:  Appellant Chris Nelson appeals from the court of appeals decision affirming the dismissal of his claim for wrongful discharge by respondent Productive Alternatives, Inc., a nonprofit corporation.  Appellant contends he was terminated for exercising his rights as a voting member of the corporation.  At issue is:  (1) whether Minnesota’s whistle-blower statute, Minn. Stat. § 181.932 (2004), precludes a common‑law action for wrongful termination of employment that is based on a public-policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine; and (2) whether appellant’s complaint states a legally sufficient claim for relief.  (On appeal from Otter Tail County District Court.)


            State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Demetrius Devell Dobbins, Appellant – Case No. A05-320:  Appellant Demetrius Devell Dobbins appeals from his conviction for first-degree murder.  At issue are:  (1) whether the district court wrongly allowed the only African-American prospective juror to be struck from the panel; (2) whether the district court violated appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to effectively cross-examine the state’s key witness by allowing appellant to tell the jury the percentage amount by which the witness’ sentence had been reduced in return for his cooperation, but not that the witness’ sentence had been reduced from a minimum of 30 years in prison to 120 months or less; (3) whether the trial court should have instructed the jury to determine whether appellant’s girlfriend, who testified against appellant under a grant of immunity, was an accomplice rather than a corroborating witness; (4) and whether appellant was denied a fair trial due to prosecutorial misconduct.  (On appeal from Anoka County District Court.)


            In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Willard L. Wentzel, Jr., a Minnesota attorney, Registration No. 13160X – Case No. A05-846:  An attorney discipline matter that presents the issue of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.          



Tuesday, March 7, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center



            Darlene Gerber, Respondent vs. John Truman Gerber, Respondent, County of Anoka, Appellant – Case No. A04-1538:  Respondents John Truman Gerber and Darlene Gerber were divorced in 1982.  In 1993, the court entered judgment against John Gerber for $94,850 for failing to pay child support between 1984 and 1993, but did not locate a payer of funds until 2001.  Though the youngest of the Gerbers’ children had turned 18 in 1993, the county withheld child support from John Gerber’s income to pay Darlene Gerber for the arrearages.  The county did not renew the judgment before it expired in 2003.  In 2004, John Gerber moved to terminate collection actions on grounds the statute of limitations barred further efforts to collect.  The district court allowed collection to continue, but the court of appeals reversed.  At issue is whether income withholding is an administrative, rather than a judicial, remedy that is not subject to the statute of limitations.  (On appeal from Anoka County District Court.)


            State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Scott Wade Ramey, Respondent – Case No. A04-1056:  Respondent Scott Wade Ramey was convicted of violating an order for protection.  Respondent’s conviction was overturned by the court of appeals on grounds the prosecutor committed misconduct by personally vouching for the state’s witnesses and by interjecting his personal opinion into closing argument, statements to which respondent did not object at the time.  At issue are:  (1) the legal standard that should be applied in determining whether prosecutorial misconduct was prejudicial; and (2) whether plain-error analysis should apply to prosecutorial misconduct to which the defendant did not object at trial.  (On appeal from Steele County District Court.)



Wednesday, March 8, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center



            State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Peter John Jones, Respondent – Case No. A05-365:  Respondent Peter John Jones was convicted of felony kidnapping in 1996.  He failed to notify the state of his new address, as required by Minnesota law requiring registration of sexual predators.  Respondent is an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwa and lives on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.  Public Law 280 (18 U.S.C. § 1162(a)) allows Minnesota to enforce all of its criminal laws, but only some of its civil laws, against enrolled tribal members on the tribal reservation.  The district court dismissed the state’s complaint against respondent, the court of appeals affirmed, and the State of Minnesota petitioned this court for further review.  At issue is whether Minn. Stat. § 243.166, requiring registration of sexual predators, is a criminal law enforceable under Public Law 280 against a Native American tribal member residing on an Indian reservation.  (On appeal from Cass County District Court.)


            State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Robert D. Kendell, Appellant – Case No. A05-427:  Appellant Robert D. Kendell appeals from his convictions for first- and second-degree murder, attempted murder, and assault for shooting appellant’s girlfriend and her children and killing her neighbor, Robert Hannah.  At issue are:  (1) whether the district court should have severed the charges of first- and second-degree murder for trial because the death of Robert Hannah was not part of the same criminal episode as the shootings of the girlfriend and her children; (2) whether the state failed to prove premeditation beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) whether the district court erred in asking the jury to decide whether appellant was a dangerous offender; and (4) whether the state provided adequate notice of its intent to seek an upward departure in sentencing based on appellant’s classification as a dangerous offender.  (On appeal from Hennepin County District Court.)