United States District Court, D. Minnesota
FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. DAVIS, Chief District Judge.
On November 17, 2014, the above-entitled matter came before the Honorable Michael J. Davis, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. Presentation of evidence concluded on November 19, 2014, final arguments were heard on February 4, 2015, and the matter was taken under advisement. Attorney David Izek appeared on behalf of Plaintiff Lanette Rae Heitzman. Attorneys Pamela L. VanderWiel and Anna L. Yunker appeared on behalf of Defendant Scott Engelstad.
NOW, THEREFORE, after consideration of the evidence presented, the files and memoranda in this matter, the arguments of the parties, and the applicable law, the Court makes the following:
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Plaintiff Lanette Heitzman is fifty-four years old. She grew up in Sparta, Minnesota, and attended high school in Gilbert, Minnesota through the twelfth grade.
2. In 1978, Plaintiff married Sherwin Heitzman. In 1987, Plaintiff and her husband moved to California and in 2000, moved to Arizona. They presently live in Arizona.
3. The Heitzman's have two children, ages 35 and 32, one of whom, James Heitzman, lives in Mountain Iron, Minnesota. The Heitzmans have six grandchildren.
4. Plaintiff has been employed by the family business, Gulbranson Excavation, which operates in Minnesota, Arizona, California and Texas. The company performs excavation for utility companies. Her job duties include taking care of office and administrative matters.
5 The Heitzmans have owned a lake house at 4731 Differding Point Road, Eveleth, Minnesota for over thirty years. The City of Gilbert provides police service to this area.
6. Plaintiff's parents also own a lake house three doors down from Plaintiff's lake house. Next door to this lake house is one of Gulbranson Excavation's offices.
7. Prior to July 19, 2012, Plaintiff and her husband routinely returned to Minnesota to enjoy their lake house.
8. Prior to July 19, 2012, Plaintiff had never been arrested or convicted of a crime, with the exception of a seat belt violation years ago.
9. Plaintiff has had a history of health problems including diabetes, obesity and depression. (Pl. Ex. 54.) She had gastric bypass surgery in 2008. For the six months before July 19, 2012, she was feeling the best she ever had been for years. Plaintiff was enjoying camping, hunting, cooking, raising her dogs, house maintenance, babysitting her grandchildren and nieces, horseback riding and socializing with friends. She was generally happy.
10. On July 19, 2012, Plaintiff was mowing her lawn at her lake home on Differding Point Road. (Pl. Exs. 25-26 and 28.) She also mowed the grass at her parents' lake home and the next door office. Plaintiff also mowed the overgrown grass leading from her lake home to the Gilbert Beach. (Pl. Exs. 27, 29, 32, 33, 34, and 35.)
11. The Gilbert Beach and its entrance are located along Differding Point Road.
12. Plaintiff used a riding mower to cut the grass. (Pl. Ex. 24.) The riding mower's attachment was not working, so the grass clippings were not collected while she mowed.
13. Plaintiff mowed a path leading from her lake house to the beach area so children would not have to walk on the roadway in getting to the lake and beach. As she mowed, grass clippings were left on the roadway.
14. Catherine Leece, a neighbor who has lived on Differding Point Road for approximately twenty years, saw Plaintiff mowing the grass on July 19, 2012. Leece had never met Plaintiff before and did not know who she was.
15. Leece, who was riding as bicycle, stopped to speak with Plaintiff because she was concerned about the grass clippings Plaintiff was depositing on Differding Point Road. Approximately a week or two earlier, Leece was aware that Plaintiff's husband had mowed the grass in the public ditch and had left piles of clippings on the road. Leece did not want the clippings left on the road again because she believed they would clog a nearby culvert and cause flooding.
16. The conversation was not cordial. Plaintiff told Leece that she was making the property look better, and that she intended to keep mowing. Plaintiff did not tell Leece that she intended to clean up the clippings. Leece told Plaintiff that she was going to report the clippings to the City.
17. The grass mowing took Plaintiff approximately four hours to complete and afterward, Plaintiff was exhausted. She is diabetic and was weak after the mowing because her sugar level was low. She testified that when her sugar level is low, she appears weak, exhausted and tired.
18. At approximately 11:43 a.m., Leece called 911 to complain about the grass clippings Plaintiff was depositing on Differding Point Road. Because Leece did not know who Plaintiff was, she ...