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County of Hennepin v. Bhakta

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 26, 2017

County of Hennepin, Respondent,
v.
Sandip C. Bhakta, et al., Appellants.

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-14-20893

          Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Louis K. Robards, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Ryan R. Simatic, Dan Biersdorf, Biersdorf & Associates, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellants)

          Considered and decided by Cleary, Chief Judge; Hooten, Judge; and Smith, Tracy M., Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Pretrial evidentiary rulings must be assigned as error in a motion for a new trial or amended findings to properly preserve objections for appellate review.

          SPECIAL TERM OPINION

          CLEARY, Chief Judge.

         In this appeal from a judgment determining damages in an eminent domain proceeding, appellants Sandip C. Bhakta, et al., seek to raise evidentiary issues pertaining to the denial of three of appellants' motions in limine, and an additional issue relating to the district court's offset against the damages award for unpaid real estate taxes. Appellants did not move for a new trial.

         The general rule is that to preserve issues for appellate review that arise during the course of trial, counsel-in addition to taking other requisite steps, including making timely objections-must move the district court for a new trial pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01. Sauter v. Wasemiller, 389 N.W.2d 200, 201 (Minn. 1986). Because the Sauter rule applies to pretrial evidentiary rulings, we dismiss the part of this appeal raising evidentiary issues that do not involve a substantive question of law.

         In May 2012, respondent County of Hennepin filed a condemnation petition to acquire appellants' motel property as part of a project to upgrade a county road. In August 2012, respondent made a quick-take payment to appellants in the amount of $765, 443 for the property. The district court granted title and possession of the property to respondent and appointed three commissioners to determine the amount of just compensation owing to appellants. In October 2014, the commissioners awarded the amount of $760, 000 to appellants for the taking.

         Appellants filed a notice of appeal in district court challenging the commissioners' award under Minn. Stat. § 117.145 (2016). Appellants requested a jury trial. In March 2017, appellants filed five motions in limine, including motions seeking to exclude respondent's minimum compensation report and the testimony of two of respondent's planned witnesses. Before the jury trial began on April 4, 2017, the district court denied appellants' motions in limine on the record.

         On April 10, 2017, the jury returned its special verdict awarding damages for the taking in the amount of $810, 000. Respondent moved to offset the amount remaining on the damages award by the amounts that respondent paid for delinquent real estate taxes and water charges on the property.

         In a June 2, 2017 judgment, the district court awarded damages in the amount of $44, 567 to appellants, which was the difference between the damages awarded by the jury verdict and the amount of quick-take payments. In a July 28, 2017 order, the district court granted respondent's motion to offset the delinquent property taxes that respondent had paid against the damage award and judgment. Because the amount of the property tax payment exceeded the judgment amount of $44, 567, the district court directed that the judgment entered on June 2, 2017, be vacated. On August 2, 2017, final judgment was entered pursuant to the July 28, 2017 order. Appellants did not file any posttrial motions, but instead filed this appeal from the August 2, 2017 final judgment.

         In view of appellants' failure to raise their proposed evidentiary issues in a motion for a new trial, we questioned whether the evidentiary issues are subject to ...


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