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August 31, 1990


Review of Court of Appeals.

En Banc. Keith, J. Dissenting, Popovich, C.j., Yetka, and Kelley, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Keith


1. Sufficient minimum forum contacts by appellants exist so that Minnesota's exercise of personal jurisdiction over them does not offend constitutional due process nor our statutory requirements (Minn. Stat. § 543.19 (1988)).

2. A custodial parent may not recover in tort for damages resulting from intentional interference with custodial rights.

John Larson (Larson) sued his former wife, Loree Dunn (Dunn), her father and mother, Franklin Rigenhagen and Carol Rigenhagen (Rigenhagens), and several other relatives for alleged intentional interference with his custodial rights to his minor daughter, Jessica. The trial court, inter alia, denied a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction over the nonresident Rigenhagens and granted a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the jurisdictional ruling but reversed the trial court and recognized the custodial interference tort. Larson v. Dunn,449 N.W.2d 751, 760 (Minn. App. 1990). We affirm in part and reverse in part.


John Larson and Loree Rigenhagen were married on February 11, 1978 and their daughter, Jessica, was born on July 25, 1978. In February of 1980, Dunn commenced an action to dissolve the marriage and she was given temporary physical custody of Jessica. On November 5, 1980, their marriage was dissolved and Larson was awarded permanent physical custody of Jessica. Dunn did not appeal this decision. Larson alleged that he was denied access to Jessica by Dunn's father, Franklin Rigenhagen, the evening of November 5, 1980 and when he went to the Rigenhagens' home the following day with a copy of the court order, he was told Dunn had fled the state with Jessica. Larson then commenced a seven year search for Jessica which included efforts by local law enforcement authorities as well as the FBI. In addition an arrest warrant was issued for Dunn for felony deprivation of parental rights (Minn. Stat. § 609.26 (1988)).

Based on information from the F.B.I. indicating Dunn's relatives might have information about her and Jessica's whereabouts, Larson filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on June 3, 1985 against Dunn, the Rigenhagens, and J.T. and Ione Thompson (Loree Dunn's aunt and uncle), alleging their actions constituted negligence, conspiracy, kidnapping, fraud and interference with parental custodial rights. Larson dismissed the action without prejudice before trial because of the Rigenhagens' denials to the complaint and because of information that the F.B.I. would not testify during an ongoing investigation.

In August 1987, the F.B.I. located Dunn and Jessica in the State of Washington, where they were living with Dunn's second husband, Paul Dunn, whom she married in December 1983. Dunn pled guilty to the kidnapping charge on September 16, 1987. She claims she lest Minnesota in 1980 upon her attorney's advice while the temporary custody order was still valid and that she did not learn until 30 days later that Larson was awarded physical custody. Dunn signed affidavits in August 1987 contending Larson physically abused her and Jessica, and sexually abused Jessica. She further claims Larson denied her visitation rights after he regained custody of Jessica in 1987.

Since her return in 1987, Jessica has been in Larson's custody. Larson learned from Jessica that the Rigenhagens, Rick Olson (Jessica's uncle) and other relatives had contact with her and his former wife during their seven year absence. Paul Dunn provided similar information in a 1989 affidavit. In a 1981 article in a local Minnesota newspaper and in their answer to the original complaint, however, the Rigenhagens denied knowledge of the whereabouts of their daughter and grandchild. Olson, in answer to interrogatories, admitted seeing Dunn and Jessica in California with the Rigenhagens in "either 1983 or 1984." He also asserted the Rigenhagens had contact with Jessica and Dunn between 1980 and 1987. Larson also claims the Rigenhagens and Olson denied having information concerning the whereabouts of Loree and Jessica to local law enforcement authorities and the F.B.I. Olson counters that he made his denial prior to his visit with Loree and Jessica in 1983 or 1984.

Larson filed suit in Martin County District Court on January 4, 1989 against Dunn, the Rigenhagens and Rick Olson, *fn1 alleging their actions constituted intentional interference with parental custodial or visitation rights, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud. Larson claims damages of over $50,000 in search related costs, emotional distress and loss of Jessica's companionship and society; damages are also claimed on behalf of Jessica for loss of her father's companionship during her abduction. Although Dunn was properly served in Washington, she refused service and did not appear. Her only response was a letter to Larson and his attorney indicating she acted alone and was advised she was not liable for expenses Larson incurred in the search.

On December 19, 1988, the Rigenhagens moved to stay proceedings under Minn. R. Civ. P. 41.04 (costs of previously dismissed action); to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction; to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.03; and to stay discovery under Minn. R. Civ. P. 26.03. Olson moved on December 22, 1988, to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action and for summary judgment. By order dated February 17, 1989, the trial court denied the motions to stay proceedings, to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and for summary judgment, but granted the motions to stay discovery and to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The parties appealed. *fn2

The court of appeals affirmed the trial court on all issues except the motion to dismiss the intentional interference tort. Larson, 449 N.W.2d at 760. This court granted the Rigenhagens' petition for further review. They did not appeal the stay issues.


The Rigenhagens lived in Minnesota in 1980 when the alleged tort occurred, but have been living in California since 1982. We believe the trial court and the appellate court correctly denied their motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

Personal jurisdiction is properly exercised if the nonresident's contacts satisfy our long-arm statute and constitutional concerns. Sherburne County Social Servs. v. Kennedy, 426 N.W.2d 866, 867 (Minn. 1988). Larson bears the burden of proving sufficient forum contacts exist when jurisdiction is challenged. Hardrives, Inc. v. City of LaCrosse, 307 Minn. 290, 293, 240 N.W.2d 814, 816 (1976).

Under Minnesota's long-arm statute, Minn. Stat. § 543.19, subd. 1 (1988), personal jurisdiction may be exercised over a nonresident who:

(a) Owns, uses, or possesses any real or personal property situated in this state, or

(c) Commits any act in Minnesota causing injury or property damage, or

(d) Commits any act outside Minnesota causing injury or property damage in Minnesota, subject to the following exceptions when no jurisdiction shall be found:

(1) Minnesota has no substantial interest in providing a forum; or

(2) the burden placed on the defendant by being brought under the state's jurisdiction would violate fairness and substantial justice; or

(3) the cause of action lies in defamation or privacy.

Larson alleges that while still in Minnesota, the Rigenhagens aided in the abduction and concealment of Jessica. The Rigenhagens allege that their daughter asserts she acted alone. Larson's allegations, however, must be viewed as true for purposes of determining whether he has made a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction. Hunt v. Nevada State Bank, 285 Minn. 77, 82, 172 N.W.2d 292, 296-97 (1969), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 1010, 90 S. Ct. 1239, 25 L. Ed. 2d 423, (1970). Thus, ...

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