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Taplin v. One 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee

January 7, 2003

JAMES E. TAPLIN, ET AL., RESPONDENTS,
v.
ONE 1998 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE, MINNESOTA LICENSE NO.: FLY-FISH VIN: 1J4GW58S0XC578246, APPELLANT.



Washington County District Court File No. C0013569

Considered and decided by Willis , Presiding Judge, Halbrooks , Judge, and Hudson , Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Halbrooks, Judge

Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

In this vehicle-forfeiture matter, appellant City of Bayport (Bayport) challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment to respondent James Taplin (Taplin) on the ground that the court erred in concluding that Bayport's interest in the vehicle is subject to the unperfected bona fide security interest of Taplin. Bayport argues that Taplin's motion for amended findings following the court's order granting summary judgment to Bayport was improper because it sought to introduce evidence outside the summary-judgment record. Bayport further argues that, even if Taplin's motion were construed as a rule 60 motion or a motion for reconsideration, it was still improper. Bayport seeks reinstatement of the district court's original grant of summary judgment in its favor, or, in the alternative, remand for trial. We affirm the district court's conclusion that Bayport is entitled to forfeit the vehicle. Because material issues of fact remain, we vacate the district court's order granting respondent summary judgment and remand for trial.

FACTS

Taplin owned a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee that he sold to his son, respondent John Taplin (John). Under the terms of the purchase agreement, John was to make monthly payments of $675 to Taplin until the $35,000 balance was paid in full. Following John's arrest for driving the vehicle under the influence of alcohol, Bayport instituted forfeiture proceedings. Taplin intervened, claiming that he had a security interest in the vehicle. It is undisputed that Taplin's interest in the vehicle was unperfected. Taplin claims that, although unperfected, his interest is bona fide and, thus, protected under Minn. Stat. §á169A.63, subd. 7(b) (2000).

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted Bayport's motion, concluding that, because Taplin's security interest was unperfected, it was invalid against Bayport. Despite granting summary judgment to Bayport, the district court stated in its memorandum accompanying the order that material issues of fact remained concerning whether or not Taplin had a bona fide security interest. Taplin brought a motion for amended findings. The district court responded to that motion by vacating its grant of summary judgment to Bayport and scheduling an evidentiary hearing to take place six days later. Over Bayport's objection, the district court received additional evidence at the hearing and granted summary judgment in favor of Taplin. This appeal follows.

DECISION

This court reviews a grant of summary judgment de novo to determine whether there are any genuine issues of material fact. Zip Sort, Inc. v. Comm'r of Revenue, 567 N.W.2d 34, 37 (Minn. 1997). No genuine issue of material fact exists "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." DLH, Inc. v. Russ, 566 N.W.2d 60, 69 (Minn. 1997) (alteration in original) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986)). An appellate court must determine if the evidence in the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was granted, is sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding the essential elements of that party's claims. Midwest Sports Mktg., Inc. v. Hillerich & Bradsby of Canada, Ltd., 552 N.W.2d 254, 260 (Minn. App. 1996) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Sept. 20, 1996).

Based on evidence received after ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court concluded that Bayport's interest in the vehicle is subject to Taplin's bona fide interest in the vehicle in the amount of $16,300. Bayport argues that the court erred in its decision because only perfected security interests are protected under Minn. Stat. §á169A.63, subd. 10(b) (2000), and because there are genuine issues of material fact. In support of its position, Bayport asserts that both Taplins' conduct violated the terms of the purchase agreement by (1) titling the vehicle in John's name rather than in Taplin's name; (2) John insuring the vehicle, rather than Taplin; and (3) satisfying the monthly payment requirement with rent-free housing.

Our review of this matter is complicated by its flawed procedural posture. Taplin's motion was captioned as one for amended findings under Minn. R. Civ. P.á52.02. The purpose of a motion for amended findings is to allow the trial court to review its own exercise of discretion. Lewis v. Lewis, 572 N.W.2d 313 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1998). Thus, a proper motion for amended findings must both identify the alleged defect in challenged findings and explain why challenged findings are defective. Id. In considering such a motion, "the trial court must apply the evidence as submitted during the trial of the case." Rathbun v. W.T. Grant Co., 300 Minn. 223, 238, 219 N.W.2d 641, 651 (1974).

Bayport contends that Taplin's motion for amended findings was improper because it sought to introduce evidence outside the summary-judgment record. Bayport further argues that, even if Taplin's motion is construed as a rule 60 motion or a motion for reconsideration, it is still improper. We agree.

Taplin's motion for amended findings failed to identify any defects in the court's findings or to explain why the court's findings were defective. Instead, Taplin simply asked the court to determine that he had a bona fide security interest in the vehicle based on his newly-created affidavit and additional records. Contrary to his earlier testimony, Taplin's affidavit stated that he began residing rent-free in John's home in June 1999 in exchange for John's obligation to make monthly payments to him. Taplin submitted to the court copies of bank statements that purport to show an automatic transfer of funds from John's account to his for a few months before he moved in. Taplin ...


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