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Sehlstrom v. Sehlstrom

Supreme Court of Minnesota

March 27, 2019

Randall Sehlstrom, a/k/a Randy Sehlstrom, Appellant,
v.
Donald Sehlstrom, et al., Defendants, Leland Sehlstrom, Respondent.

         Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Dennis H. Ingold, Alan B. Fish, P.A., Roseau, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Michael L. Jorgenson, Charlson & Jorgenson, P.A., Thief River Falls, Minnesota, for respondent.

         SYLLABUS

         1. Because the parties' stipulated judgment created an interest in land and not a judgment debt, postjudgment discovery was not permitted under Minn. R. Civ. P. 69.

         2. It was error to hold appellant in contempt and order payment of respondent's attorney fees.

          OPINION

          ANDERSON, JUSTICE.

         A family dispute over real-estate ownership resulted in a land partition action. That action was settled and judgment was issued by the district court, based on a 2012 stipulated settlement by the parties. The key to the settlement was an agreement by respondent Leland Sehlstrom to convey a gravel pit to appellant Randy Sehlstrom. Leland reserved a one-seventh interest in sand and gravel royalties. Under the settlement and the resulting judgment, Randy was required to pay these royalties, account for sales, and sign releases allowing Leland to contact gravel purchasers for verification purposes. In 2017, Leland deposed two gravel purchasers, pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 69. Both testified that Randy told them not to talk to Leland, and both produced documents showing potential underpayment of royalties by Randy.

         The district court found Randy in contempt for failure to pay royalties and imposed 30 days of jail. The order allowed Randy to purge the contempt finding by paying the allegedly missing royalties, as well as attorney fees. The court of appeals affirmed the contempt order but reversed and remanded for more detailed calculations of the underpayment and attorney fees. We reverse the decision of the court of appeals and remand to the district court for further proceedings.

         FACTS

         On February 1, 2011, Randy brought a partition action against Leland and the other Sehlstrom siblings and spouses. An important element of that dispute was the division of real property in Roseau County on which a gravel pit is located.

         The parties settled the action with the terms set out in a written stipulation. Judgment was entered on January 19, 2012, adopting the entire stipulation as agreed on by the parties. Leland agreed to convey the gravel pit to Randy but reserved a "perpetual [one-seventh] interest in and to all royalties of the sand and gravel located upon the real estate being conveyed to [Randy] herein." Further, the stipulation provided that Leland "shall receive [one-seventh] of all gross sales of said sand and gravel located upon said property," and that Randy "shall provide . . . Leland . . . with [one-seventh] of all sales/compensation for the use of sand and gravel from said acres." Finally, the stipulation provided that Randy "shall provide [Leland] a full and complete accounting of all sand and gravel sales and uses" and "shall provide a release to . . . Leland . . . such that [he] shall be allowed direct contact and information from each buyer or user of the sand and gravel coming from said acres, to verify the transactions."

         On August 12, 2013, Leland moved the district court to hold Randy "in contempt of court for his refusal to comply with the Court's order dated January 19, 2012." He also moved that Randy be ordered to "immediately provide . . . Leland . . . his one-seventh share of all proceeds from the sale of sand and gravel . . . ." Finally, he moved the court to order that Randy provide a "full and complete accounting of all sand and gravel sales." The court denied this motion because "an accounting has been provided, albeit not in a very timely manner," and because proceeds "have been provided to [Leland]."

         Later, Leland came to believe again that Randy was not properly disclosing sales of sand and gravel and that he was being underpaid for his royalties. On April 25, 2017, Leland's attorney sent Randy's attorney a letter, stating that he sought to reopen discovery on the subject of Randy's compliance with the January 19, 2012 judgment. He wrote: "This matter is not closed until my client is paid in full. Please see Minn. Rules of Civil Procedure 69, which indicates that a judgment creditor may obtain discovery from any person, including the judgment debtor, in the manner provided by these rules."

         On May 9, 2017, Leland noticed the depositions of two gravel purchasers. On May 15, Randy moved for a protective order pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 26. Randy argued that Leland was not a "judgment creditor" entitled to Rule 69 postjudgment discovery. The district court allowed the depositions but ordered that the transcripts be sealed and ...


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