Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-11-19025.
Jon S. Swierzewski, Richard J. Reding, Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren Ltd., Minneapolis, Minnesota (respondent).
Ann Gill, Hopkins, Minnesota (pro se appellant).
Considered and decided by Cleary, Presiding Judge; Connolly, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court's order joining her as a judgment debtor, arguing that the district court's finding that she received fraudulently transferred intellectual property was clearly erroneous and that the district court abused its discretion by awarding respondent equitable relief. We affirm.
Appellant Ann T. Gill married defendant John M. Gill in 1993. John Gill formed numerous companies including Sun Products Inc., Sun Hockey Inc., Twilight Tracer Inc., Sun Sports International Inc., John Michael Investments LLC, and Sun Pet Toys Inc. In May 2009, respondent Robert Gentile obtained a $2, 194, 655.94 judgment in a Massachusetts federal court against John Gill, Sun Products Inc., and Sun Hockey Inc. for patent infringement. Respondent docketed the judgment in Minnesota.
In July 2010, appellant, acting under the direction of John Gill, formed Sun Products USA LLC. John Gill admitted during his deposition that Sun Products USA was formed to avoid respondent's judgment. Sun Products USA continued the operations of Sun Products Inc. The companies employed the same workers and sold the same products.
On July 30, 2012, respondent moved the district court "to join Ann T. Gill, Sun Products USA, LLC, Twilight Tracer, Inc., Sun Sports International, Inc., John Michael Investments, LLC, and American Dog Toys, Inc. as judgment debtors" and for "a temporary restraining order enjoining disposition, destruction, or intentional diminution of [the] value of assets that are or should be subject to the judgment in favor of [respondent]." After an evidentiary hearing on respondent's motion, the district court concluded that John Gill and Sun Products Inc. had fraudulently transferred funds, a trademark, and a patent to appellant. The district court therefore "added [appellant] to the judgment" based on the value of those assets: $789, 459.59 in funds fraudulently transferred to appellant from a trust account created by John Gill (the Sun Sports International Trust account), $13, 200 in rent derived from a condominium that appellant had purchased with the fraudulently transferred funds, and the $80, 000 value of the trademark and patent. The district court found that "[a]s to the [monetary] judgment, [appellant] received $789, 459.59 from the trust account. Add to that the amount she received in rent, $13, 200, and then subtract the purchase price of the condo $165, 894.89 for a total judgment of $636, 764.70." The district court joined appellant as a judgment debtor in the amount of $636, 764.70, imposed a constructive trust over the trademark, the patent, and the condominium, and ordered appellant to transfer those assets to respondent "within 30 days." This appeal follows.
Appellant argues that the district court "erred in ruling patent and trademarks were fraudulently transferred from Sun Products, Inc. to [appellant] and Sun Products USA, LLC." "[Appellate courts] review the district court's factual findings for clear error. That is, [they] examine the record to see if there is reasonable evidence in the record to support the court's findings." Rasmussen v. Two Harbors Fish Co., 832 N.W.2d 790, 797 (Minn. 2013) (quotation and citation omitted). "To conclude that findings of fact are clearly erroneous [an appellate ...