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State v. Schneider

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

September 9, 2019

State of Minnesota, by its Commissioner of Transportation, Respondent,
v.
Cole A. Schneider, et al., Respondents Below, Richard A. Kelly, Jr., et al., Appellants.

          St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-CV-15-760

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Jeffery S. Thompson, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Kenneth D. Butler, Kenneth D. Butler, Ltd., Duluth, Minnesota (for appellants)

          Considered and decided by Reyes, Presiding Judge; Tracy M. Smith, Judge; and Florey, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         In eminent-domain proceedings, interest accrued under Minn. Stat. § 117.195, subd. 1 (2018), is not included in the final judgment or award of damages to determine eligibility for reimbursement of attorney fees under the plain meaning of Minn. Stat. § 117.031(a) (2018).

          OPINION

          REYES, Judge

         In this condemnation action, appellant landowners challenge the district court's denial of their motion for attorney fees, which was based on the court's determination that appellants' final judgment or award of damages did not exceed the $25, 000 threshold for reimbursement of attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 117.031(a). Appellants argue that the district court erred in concluding that interest accrued under Minn. Stat. § 117.195, subd. 1, is not included in the final judgment or award of damages under Minn. Stat. § 117.031(a). We affirm.

         FACTS

         Appellant landowners Richard A. Kelly, Jr., and Sandra L. Kelly (the Kellys) owned real property described as Parcel 35. In 2015, the state petitioned to acquire several parcels of land, including Parcel 35, to make highway improvements. The taking occurred in August 2015. In October 2018, court-appointed commissioners held a hearing regarding the taking of Parcel 35. The commissioners issued a report, awarding the Kellys $24, 552.00 as compensation for damages they sustained from the 2015 taking. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.195, subd. 1, the Kellys were entitled to interest on their damages in the amount of $2, 104.87. The Kellys filed a motion for attorney fees pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.031(a). The district court denied the Kellys' motion, determining that their final damages award of $24, 552.00 did not exceed the $25, 000 threshold requirement under section 117.031(a) to qualify for reimbursement of attorney fees. The district court reasoned that the Kellys failed to exceed the $25, 000 threshold because "the accrued interest [under section 117.195, subdivision 1] is not included in the final award of damages under [section] 117.031." This appeal follows.

         ISSUE

         Did the district court err in holding that interest accrued under Minn. Stat. § 117.195, subd. 1, is not included in the final judgment or award of damages under Minn. Stat. § 117.031(a), to determine eligibility for reimbursement of attorney fees?

         ANALYSIS

         The Kellys argue that the district court erred by determining that interest accrued pursuant to section 117.195, subdivision 1, is not included in the final judgment or award of damages under section 117.031(a), because Minn. Stat. § 549.09, subd. 1(a) (2018) states ...


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