EN BANC CALENDAR
Before the Minnesota Supreme Court
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Monday, June 5, 2023
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor
Kelly Schneider, et al., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Appellants, vs. Children’s Health Care, d/b/a Children’s Hospital and Clinics, et al., Respondents – Case No. A22-0275: Appellants Kelly Schneider and Evarist Schneider II learned that respondent Children’s Healthcare, d/b/a Children’s Hospital and Clinics (the Hospital), had disclosed certain health information about their child—without their consent—to the Hospital’s related foundation, respondent Children’s Health Care Foundation, for fundraising purposes. The Schneiders filed a class-action complaint, alleging that respondents violated the Minnesota Health Records Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat. §§ 144.291–.298 (2022), in connection with the disclosure. The district court granted respondents’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that (1) the MHRA permits disclosures specifically authorized in law, see Minn. Stat. § 144.293, subd. 2; (2) a federal regulation under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 45 C.F.R. § 164.514(f)(1) (2022), specifically authorizes a hospital to disclose health information to a related foundation without patient consent; and (3) there is no genuine issue of material fact that respondents complied with the federal regulation.
The court of appeals affirmed. It rejected the Schneiders’ argument that the reference in Minn. Stat. § 144.293, subd. 2, to “specific authorization in law” was limited to Minnesota law. Instead, it concluded that the plain language of that provision included applicable federal law. And it rejected the Schneiders’ reliance on 45 C.F.R. § 160.203(b) (2022), a HIPAA regulation that specifically saves from preemption provisions of state law that are more stringent than HIPAA regulations. Instead, the court of appeals concluded that the “specific authorization in law” provision makes the MHRA not more stringent than HIPAA.
The supreme court granted review on the following issues: (1) Was it error to graft HIPAA’s regulations onto state law without a clear expression within the MHRA that it intended to incorporate HIPAA? (2) Was it error to disregard HIPAA’s requirement that healthcare providers comply with the more restrictive MHRA? (Ramsey County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Christian Portillo, Appellant – Case No. A21-1621: In 2019, appellant Christian Portillo was charged with two counts of second‑degree criminal sexual conduct based on allegations that he sexually abused his former girlfriend’s daughter. At the outset of the jury trial, the district court prohibited the State from eliciting certain testimony, and the parties agreed not to refer to “the victim” or “the defendant” in front of the jury. Prior to closing arguments, Portillo moved for a mistrial based on the prosecutor eliciting some of the prohibited testimony during the trial and referring to “the victim” while questioning witnesses. The district court denied the request for a mistrial. The jury found Portillo guilty of one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and the district court sentenced him to 108 months in prison. The court of appeals affirmed the conviction, affirming the denial of the request for a mistrial; rejecting a newly-raised argument that reversal is required because the prosecutor, in closing, incorrectly described the presumption of innocence; and concluding that the cumulative effect of the alleged errors did not deny Portillo of a fair trial.
The supreme court granted review on the following issue: whether Portillo’s due process right to a fair trial was violated by the impact to the jury of the prosecution’s violation of multiple trial court orders and by the prosecution’s closing argument incorrectly stating Portillo’s presumption of innocence. (Ramsey County)
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor
City Bella Commercial, L.L.C., et al., Respondents, vs. City Bella on Lyndale, Appellant – Case No. A22-0288: This appeal involves the severance requirements of the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (MCIOA), Minn. Stat. §§ 515B.1-101 to 515B.4-118 (2022). Appellant City Bella on Lyndale (the Cooperative) owns and operates a common interest community in Richfield. The property is comprised of two adjacent buildings. Respondents City Bella Commercial, L.L.C., Briarcliff Apartments, L.L.C., G & B Properties, L.L.C., and Ronald Mills own commercial/retail space in the buildings.
In connection with a dispute about repair costs, respondents commenced a declaratory judgment action, and the Cooperative counterclaimed. The parties brought cross-motions for summary judgment. Among other arguments, the Cooperative asserted that the property owned by respondents was not properly severed from the common interest community more than a decade earlier when the property was replatted, the commercial tracts were transferred to respondents, and an amended declaration was filed. The district court ruled in favor of respondents, concluding that the two-year statute of limitations in Minn. Stat. § 515B.2‑.118(b) bars the Cooperative’s challenge to the amended declaration, and respondents are not obligated to pay a share of the common expenses. The court of appeals affirmed.
The supreme court granted review on the following issues: where a common interest community files an amended declaration that neither purports to sever any portion of the community nor otherwise complies with the severance requirements of the MCIOA, (1) must a claimed severance based on the amended declaration be held void under Minn. Stat. § 515B.2-124; and (2) must the community commence a negative “challenge” to severance within the two-year statute of limitations in the MCIOA or be barred from contending that no severance occurred. (Hennepin County)
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor
State of Minnesota, Appellant, vs. Mark Michael Mosley, Respondent – Case No. A22-1073: The State charged respondent Mark Michael Mosely with ineligible person in possession of a firearm in connection with a vehicle search that was based on information from a confidential reliable informant (CRI). Mosely filed a motion to suppress the State’s evidence, arguing in part that the information provided by the CRI lacked sufficient detail and range to establish the CRI’s basis of knowledge. The district court granted the motion, and the State appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s order.
The supreme court granted review on the following issues: (1) whether the court of appeals erred by requiring more corroboration of the CRI’s tip to find probable cause to search existed when the CRI had a prior track record of giving accurate information (veracity), first-hand personal observation of criminal activity (basis of knowledge), and police had corroborated some details of the tip; (2) whether the court of appeals erred by requiring that the record include more evidence of how the CRI had personally observed the criminal conduct, even when the record indicates such information would compromise the identity of the CRI in a case where the record establishes that the CRI had direct, first‑hand knowledge of criminal activity. (Hennepin County)
In re Petition for Reinstatement of Adam W. Klotz, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0390925 – Case No. A22-0523: An attorney reinstatement matter that presents the issue of whether suspended attorney Adam Klotz should be reinstated to the practice of law.
Thursday, June 8, 2023
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building Second Floor
Cities Management, Inc., Relator, vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent– Case No. A23-0222: Kim Carlson (a nonresident of Minnesota) sold her stock ownership in relator Cities Management, Inc. (CMI). Minnesota Statutes section 290.17 (2022) governs the allocation and apportionment of different types of income for tax purposes. Carlson and CMI structured the sale (and 2015 tax filings) around the tax court’s interpretation of Minn. Stat. § 290.17, subd. 2, in Nadler v. Commissioner of Revenue, No. 7736 R, 2006 WL 1084260 (Minn. T.C. Apr. 21, 2006). The Commissioner of Revenue never appealed Nadler to the supreme court, but since its issuance, the Commissioner internally took the position that the Department of Revenue “does not acquiesce” to the decision—a position eventually made public in a July 2017 Revenue Notice. The Commissioner audited CMI’s 2015 tax return and found that gain from the sale was “business income” subject to apportionment under section 290.17, subdivision 3, and assessed $433,017 in nonresident withholding tax and a penalty for substantial underpayment. In the administrative appeal to the Commissioner, the Commissioner affirmed the tax assessment but removed the penalty for underpayment based on the taxpayer’s reasonable reliance on Nadler.
The tax court affirmed the Commissioner’s administrative appeal determination. The tax court acknowledged the procedural history involving Nadler, but focused upon the decision in YAM Special Holdings, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue, 947 N.W.2d 438 (Minn. 2020), as instead being controlling and dictating that the CMI transaction was subject to section 290.17, subdivision 3.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the tax court erred by failing to recognize that the Commissioner is bound by an unappealed tax court decision that interprets Minnesota tax law; (2) whether the tax court erred by failing to apply collateral estoppel against the Commissioner; and (3) whether the tax court erred by failing to apply the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 290.17, subd. 2. (Minnesota Tax Court)
Monday, June 12, 2023
Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center
State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Gabriel Alfonso Sanchez Cruz, Appellant – Case No. A22-1273: In 2021, appellant Gabriel Cruz was indicted for first-degree murder based on allegations that he shot and killed an adult male during a roadside sale of controlled substances. At the outset of the jury trial, the district court denied Cruz’s request to assert the defense of entrapment. During the trial, several eyewitnesses testified regarding the shooting. At the close of evidence, the district court denied Cruz’s request for a jury instruction on lesser-included offenses. The jury found Cruz guilty of first-degree murder, and the district court sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of release after 30 years.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court committed errors by excluding his entrapment defense and a jury instruction on lesser-included offenses, and whether the evidence is sufficient to support his conviction. (Dakota County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Corey Lynden Stone, Appellant – Case No. A21-1648: In 2020, appellant Corey Stone was charged with illegal possession of a firearm after law enforcement officers discovered a disassembled 20-gauge shotgun in Stone’s backpack while searching a vehicle. Stone is prohibited from possessing a firearm and ammunition based on a 2015 conviction for a crime of violence. A jury found Stone guilty of the offense, and the court of appeals affirmed the conviction.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether a disassembled and incomplete collection of shotgun components constitutes a “firearm” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subd. 1b(a) (2022). (Mille Lacs County)
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center
In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against David L.Ludescher, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 194347 – Case No. A22-0299: An attorney discipline matter that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the case.
William B. Wood, et al., Appellants, vs. County of Blue Earth, Respondent,Mesenbrink Construction, et al., Respondents Below – Case No. A22-0314: Respondent Blue Earth County brought a condemnation petition, seeking to acquire property and easements necessary to create a new access-controlled extension of County State Aid Highway 12 (CSAH 12) near Mankato. Among other things, the petition sought to acquire portions of two parcels of land owned by appellants William B. Wood, Elise C. Wood, and Telemark Properties, LLC (collectively the Woods). The petition indicated that the extension would be a controlled-access highway at most points along the Woods’ property.
The district court held a quick-take hearing on the petition; the Woods did not attend. Thereafter the district court granted the petition and appointed commissioners for the purpose of awarding damages associated with the taking. The commissioners held a hearing and made an award of damages to the Woods, who appealed the amount of the damages award to the district court. Among other things, they argued that they were entitled to additional damages for loss of access to CSAH 12.
Prior to trial, the Woods and the County brought cross-motions in limine regarding the issue of loss of access to CSAH 12. The district court granted the County’s motion, thereby precluding the Woods from presenting evidence regarding lack of access to CSAH 12 and preventing the jury from considering loss of access as an element of just compensation. The court relied in part on Thomsen v. State, 170 N.W.2d 575 (Minn. 1969), for the proposition that no compensation is necessary for taking access to a road that did not previously exist. And the court noted that there was a provision in the Blue Earth County ordinances setting forth the process for obtaining access to controlled-access highways. Noting that the Woods had not followed this process, the court reasoned that any suggestion that access was unavailable was speculative.
The court of appeals affirmed, reasoning in part based on State v. Elbert, 942 N.W.2d 182 (Minn. 2020), that the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider the issue of loss of access because the petition did not specifically seek to take the right of access, and the Woods did not object to the petition before the district court appointed commissioners. The court of appeals therefore ruled that the Woods “did not preserve their objection related to access.”
The supreme court granted review on the following issues: (1) when a condemnor files a petition showing access control along a new stretch of highway, must the landowner appear at the quick take hearing and specifically assert an access taking to be entitled to access-related damages; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when it held that the Woods must apply for access to a newly built controlled‑access highway, and be rejected, before a compensable taking has occurred. (Blue Earth County)
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Nonoral: James Andre Woodard, Appellant, vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A22-1483: Following a jury trial, appellant James Andre Woodard was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. On direct appeal, the supreme court affirmed his conviction. In April 2022, Woodard filed a postconviction petition asserting a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The district court summarily denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing.
On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: Did the postconviction court abuse its discretion by denying Woodard’s petition and request for a hearing on the claim that he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel? (Hennepin County)
Nonoral: Rogelio Onofre Espinoza, Respondent, vs. Direct Home Health Care, Inc. and Care Providers Workers’ Compensation Fund with claims administered by Meadowbrook Insurance Group, Relators – Case No. A23-0098: Respondent Rogelio Onofre Espinoza was employed by relator Direct Home Health Care, Inc., as a personal care assistant (PCA) for his mother, with whom he lived. The PCA Care Plan recognized that the mother needed assistance with “mobility” and was a “high risk for fall.” On August 2, 2016, a National Night Out event was taking place near the street outside the mother’s home, and the mother told Espinoza she wanted to attend. Around 4:15 p.m., Espinoza and his mother began crossing the street when a car backed into them. Espinoza grabbed onto his mother’s walker on both sides so she would not fall, but he claimed neck and back injuries as a result of the accident.
The compensation judge denied Espinoza’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits, finding that he did not sustain a personal injury arising out of and in the course of his employment. This was based on the compensation judge’s finding that attending the event was a deviation from Espinoza’s approved PCA duties. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversed that finding.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether there was substantial evidence at the hearing to support the findings and order of the compensation judge; (2) whether the evidence was such that a reasonable mind might accept the evidence supporting the compensation judge’s determinations as adequate; and (3) whether the WCCA improperly and impermissibly invaded and set aside the credibility determinations of the compensation judge. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)