Hennepin County District Court File No. 27CV1210652
Michael B. Lammers, Heimerl & Lammers, LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellants)
Richard A. Saliterman, Brett M. Larson, Saliterman & Siefferman, P.C., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.
Appellants, victims of jewelry thefts, challenge summary judgment to respondents, precious-metal dealers, dismissing appellants' private-attorney-general claims for damages under Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subd. 3a (2012), and their negligence per se claims for violation of Minn. Stat. § 325F.736 (2012) (precious-metals-holding statute), which requires precious-metal dealers to retain secondhand items containing precious metal without alteration for a period of at least 14 days. Appellants argue that the district court erred by (1) concluding that respondents' compliance with a local ordinance, which provides an alternative to the holding period, precludes action under the precious-metals-holding statute and (2) holding, in the alternative, that appellants failed to meet the public-interest requirement to pursue a private-attorney-general action for violation of the statute. Because the legislature has not extended the right to bring a private-attorney-general action to claims for violation of the precious-metals-holding statute and has not provided a private cause of action for violations of the statute, the district court correctly concluded that appellants cannot pursue their private actions for violation of the statute. We affirm without deciding the validity of the ordinance challenged by appellants.
The facts in this appeal are not in dispute. Respondents, The Gold Guys and Gold Guys MN, LLC (collectively, Gold Guys), are registered precious-metals dealers in Minnesota, operating a store in the Mall of America that is licensed by the City of Bloomington under a local ordinance. At all times relevant, Gold Guys has complied with the ordinance under which it is licensed.
In 2011, four rings, valued at $4, 220 were stolen from the residence of appellants Bruce and Laura Vind and were sold to Gold Guys on the day they were stolen. In an unrelated transaction, jewelry stolen from appellant Alice Menchaca's residence, valued at $5, 000, was sold to Gold Guys within one to three days of the theft. Gold Guys melted down or altered the Vinds' rings within 24 hours of purchasing them and melted down or altered Menchaca's jewelry within a week of purchasing it.
In separate conciliation-court actions, based on allegations that Gold Guys violated the precious-metals-holding statute, the Vinds and Menchaca were granted damages against Gold Guys. Gold Guys appealed the conciliation-court judgments to the district court. In district court, the Vinds and Menchaca filed complaints for money damages, invoking the private-attorney-general statute to argue that the ordinance relied on by Gold Guys is void, and that Gold Guys violated the required 14-day holding requirement in Minn. Stat. § 325F.736. They also alleged negligence per se for violating the holding duty imposed by the statute. The district court consolidated the cases.
Gold Guys moved for dismissal of both complaints or, in the alternative, summary judgment, arguing, in relevant part, that (1) there is no private-attorney-general action or direct tort action for an alleged violation of the precious-metals-holding statute and (2) its business is governed by the Bloomington City Code (ordinance), precluding any action against them based on violation of the state statute. The Vinds and Menchaca argued that, because the ordinance's waiver scheme effectively eliminates the state's required 14-day holding period altogether, the ordinance is less restrictive than the statute, is void as a result, and Gold Guys violated the precious-metals-holding statute.
Because Gold Guys relied on material outside the pleadings, the district court treated the motion as a motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment, concluding that: (1) the ordinance is more restrictive than the statute and is therefore valid, precluding any action against Gold Guys for violation of the precious-metals-holding statute and (2) because Gold Guys complied with the ordinance, as a matter of law, it did not violate any law and was not negligent. In the alternative, the district court concluded that the Vinds and Menchaca do not have ...