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Rochon Corp v. City of St. Paul

April 8, 2013

ROCHON CORP., APPELLANT,
v.
CITY OF ST. PAUL, RESPONDENT.



Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CV-11-97

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

Affirmed

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Chutich, Judge; and Smith, Judge.

SYLLABUS

A prospective contractor for a municipal project that successfully challenges a bid-submission process and recovers under the Minnesota Uniform Municipal Contract Law cannot circumvent the prohibition of attorney fee awards by claiming that the contract violation entitles it to attorney fees under Minnesota's private attorney general statute.

OPINION

SMITH, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's refusal to award attorney fees and litigation costs incurred after it successfully challenged respondent-city's bidding process for a municipal-contracting project. Appellant was awarded the full costs of its bid submission as allowed under the Minnesota Uniform Municipal Contracting Law (the UMCL). Because the UMCL unambiguously prohibits the award of attorney fees under these circumstances, we decline to adopt appellant's argument that it is entitled to attorney fees and costs under Minnesota's private attorney general statute. We affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Rochon Corporation lost a municipal general-contract bidding contest to construct the Lofts at Farmer's Market for the city of St. Paul. When the city opened the sealed bids, it was initially determined that Shaw-Lundquist Associates had submitted the successful bid. Shaw-Lundquist subsequently discovered a clerical error in the amount of $619,200, and the city permitted Shaw-Lundquist to raise its bid to cover the clerical error in the amount of $89,211. Because Shaw-Lundquist's modified bid remained the lowest, it received the contract for a total bid of $8,041,411.

Rochon sued the city, requesting that the district court void the contract. The district court granted summary judgment in part to Rochon, concluding that the city had violated competitive bidding laws by permitting Shaw-Lundquist to change its bid after the bids were unsealed. However, the district court declined to void the contract because it concluded that the change was not material. Rochon recovered its bid-preparation costs of $33,652 under the UMCL. Rochon appealed.

In the first appeal to this court, we reversed the district court's determination that the change was not material. Rochon Corp. v. City of St. Paul, 814 N.W.2d 365 (Minn. App. 2012), review denied (Minn. July 14, 2012) (Rochon I). We concluded that the city's action violated city ordinances and Minnesota caselaw designed to eliminate official discretion in competitive bidding and thus the change constituted a material contractual change. Id. at 368-69. We declared the city's contract with Shaw-Lundquist void and held that Rochon was entitled to a declaratory judgment. Id. at 370.

Following our decision, Rochon moved the district court for an award of costs, including attorney fees, in the amount of $50,038.40. Rochon claimed that Minnesota's private attorney general statute authorized the award. See Minn. Stat. ยง 8.31, subd. 3a (2012). The city countered that the UMCL prohibits such an award. The district court noted the "considerable amount of energy" the parties devoted to the interplay of the two statutes but rationalized that the "key requirement[]" was demonstrating that Rochon's requested relief would benefit the public. Concluding that Rochon ...


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