Robert Follis, Appellant, vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent.Annotate this Case
This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480 A. 08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Filed December 11, 2007
Todd County District Court
File No. C2-06-400
Robert L. Follis, 220 First Avenue South, Long Prairie, MN 56347 (pro se appellant)
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Erik M. Johnson, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
LANSING, JudgeThe district court denied Robert Follis's petition to enjoin the termination of his contract for deed. Follis appeals, arguing that the district court erred by concluding that it lacked statutory authority to grant relief under Minn. Stat. § 559.211 (2006) based on an alleged right to payment for a medical-assistance claim that did not arise under or in relation to the contract for deed. Because Follis's potential claim was insufficiently related to the contract for deed, the district court did not err when it found that the statute did not apply, and we affirm.
F A C T S
Robert Follis entered into a contract for deed in 2002 with the Adjutant General of the State of Minnesota to purchase property located in Long Prairie that had previously been used by the Minnesota Army National Guard. The contract required Follis to make a down payment of $5,000 and to pay the remaining balance in five annual payments of $8,900 plus interest. Although Follis provided the down payment, he failed to make any of the annual payments that became due in June 2003, June 2004, and June 2005. In 2005 Follis also breached the contract provision requiring him to pay all property taxes that were due and payable.
Because of Follis's default on the contract for deed, the state served Follis with a "notice of cancellation" on March 22, 2006. The notice informed Follis that he must pay the amount he owed and other costs or secure a court order suspending termination within sixty days. If he did not do so, the notice informed him, the contract for deed would be terminated.
Follis did not pay the amounts owing or contact an attorney, but he did attempt to research the termination issue. His research led him to conclude that he was eligible for medical-assistance payments from Todd County for care of his autistic son. On May 22, 2006, Follis filed with the district court a copy of a letter to Todd County social services alleging that the state owed him medical-assistance payments. He also filed a petition to enjoin the termination proceedings.
A hearing on the petition was held on July 28, 2006. The district court concluded that it did not have the authority to enjoin the termination proceeding under the governing statute, Minn. Stat. § 559.211 (2006). The district court gave two reasons. First, the district court noted that the statute authorizes injunctions only before the contract for deed is terminated and Follis's contract for deed terminated sixty days after he received the notice of cancellation. Second, the district court noted that it could only issue an injunction based on a claim arising out of the contract for deed and Follis's medical-assistance claim neither arises out of nor relates to the contract for deed. Follis appeals the denial of his petition to enjoin the termination of his contract for deed.D E C I S I O N
Minnesota law provides a statutory process for a seller to terminate a contract for deed. Minn. Stat. § 559.21 (2006). In general, if a buyer defaults on the agreement, the seller can provide the buyer with notice that the contract for deed will terminate in sixty days. Minn. Stat. § 559.21, subd. 2a. If the buyer does not cure the default within that time, the contract for deed will be terminated. Minn. Stat. § 559.21, subd. 4(d). But courts can provide protection to buyers. If a buyer brings "an action arising under or in relation to" the contract for deed or any interest in the real estate, the district court has the authoritybefore the contract is terminatedto enjoin the termination proceedings. Minn. Stat. § 559.211, subd. 1 (2006).
Ordinarily, we review a district court's decision on whether to enjoin termination proceedings for an abuse of discretion. Eide v. Bierbaum, 472 N.W.2d 193, 194 (Minn. App. 1991). In this case, however, the district court's decision does not rest on a consideration of whether the exercise of injunctive relief is appropriate. Instead, the district court determined, as a matter of law, that section 559.211 does not provide authority to grant relief when the asserted claim neither arises out of nor relates to the contract for deed. This issue raises a question of statutory interpretation, which we review de novo. Olmanson v. LeSueur County, 693 N.W.2d 876, 879 (Minn. 2005).
The district court correctly concluded that it does not have authority to issue an injunction under section 559.211 unless the asserted claim "aris[es] under or in relation to" the contract for deed or Follis's interest in the real estate. Follis, through his letter to Todd County social services, raised a potential claim for medical-assistance benefits. Although Follis indicates that he would use his recovery to cure his default, his claim is otherwise completely unrelated to the contract for deed. This possible use of the recovery in a parallel action for medical assistance does not establish a claim that arises under or in relation to the contract for deed. See Fraser v. Fraser, 642 N.W.2d 34, 38 (Minn. App. 2002) (concluding that dissolution action related to parties' interest in contract for deed but did not relate to or arise under contract for deed itself). Because Follis did not bring "an action arising under or in relation to" the contract for deed, section 559.211 did not authorize the district court to issue an injunction.
The district court also concluded that it did not have authority to issue the injunction because more than sixty days had passed since Follis received the notice of cancellation. Because the district court did not have authority to issue the injunction regardless of whether sixty days had passed, we need not address whether Follis failed to have a hearing scheduled before the effective date of contract termination.
Follis additionally argues that the district court did not make adequate findings when it denied the injunction. Under Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01, the district court must "set forth the findings of fact and conclusions of law which constitute the grounds for its action" when it grants or denies an interlocutory injunction. The findings may be written or oral. Id. Although the written order simply denies the motion, the district court explained its reasoning at the hearing. The judge explained that the time to grant the motion had expired and that Follis could not use "a setoff of a potential claim" as the basis for obtaining an injunction. Thus, the district court properly explained its reasoning for denying the injunction. Because the district court based its determination on a statutory interpretation, it was not required to specifically address the five-factor standard for injunctions described in Dahlberg Bros., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 272 Minn. 264, 274-75, 137 N.W.2d 314, 321-22 (1965).
Because the district court correctly concluded that it lacked authority to issue an injunction under section 559.211 and Follis has not presented any other basis for granting relief, the district court did not err by denying Follis's petition to enjoin termination of the contract for deed.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.