STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Mark A. Christiansen, individually
And as trustee for the heirs of Ken J. Christiansen, Decedent, et al.
Wesley W. Omer,
Filed June 12, 2007
Certified question answered in the affirmative; Affirmed
St. Louis County District Court
File No. 69DU-CV-05-2027
Gerald J. Brown, Attorney at Law,
Jennifer L. Frisch, 360 McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak Street Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55455-2006 (for defendant University of Minnesota Board of Regents)
Robert C. Barnes, McCarthy & Barnes, PLC, 11 East Superior Street, Suite 330, Duluth, MN 55802 (for defendant Jeramy Katchuba)
Gregory J. Holly, McGuigan & Holly, PLC, 200 Associated
Matthew R. Thibodeau, Jerome D. Feriancek, Jr., Thibodeau, Johnson & Feriancek, PLLP, 800 Lonsdale Building, 302 West Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55802 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Harten, Judge.
S Y L L A B U S
The six-year limitation prescribed in Minn. Stat. § 541.05 (2004) governs actions brought under Minn. Stat. § 340A.90 (2004).
O P I N I O N
Appellant, a social host who provided alcohol to a minor, moved to dismiss an action brought against him under Minn. Stat. § 340A.90 (2004) on the ground that Minn. Stat. § 573.02 (2004), prescribing a three-year limitation for wrongful death actions, precludes the action. The district court denied his motion on the ground that the six-year limitation prescribed by Minn. Stat. § 541.05 (2004) governs actions brought under Minn. Stat. § 340A.90. Under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.03(i), appellant then moved the district court to certify as important and doubtful the question of whether claims under Minn. Stat. § 340A.90 are governed by the limitation prescribed by Minn. Stat. § 541.05. The district court granted the motion, and appellant presents the certified question to this court. We answer the certified question in the affirmative and affirm the district court denial of appellant’s motion to dismiss.
On 13 April 2001, Ken Christiansen, then under 21 years of age, attended a party at a residence that appellant Wesley Omer controlled. Christiansen consumed alcohol, became intoxicated, and died after falling in a creek as he attempted to walk home. Four years later, on 9 April 2005, appellant was served with the complaint in an action brought by respondents, Christiansen’s sisters and father, both individually and as trustee for his heirs, under Minn. Stat. § 340A.90 (2004), establishing liability of social hosts for injuries caused by the intoxication of minors.
Does the six-year limitation prescribed by Minn. Stat. § 541.05 (2004) govern actions brought under Minn. Stat. § 340A.90 (2004)?
Respondents argue, and the district court concluded, that the relevant limitation is in Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1 (2), providing that actions “upon a liability created by statute” must be brought within six years. We agree. Minn. Stat. § 340A.90, under which this action was brought, was enacted in 2000 to create a liability for social hosts. Thus, the appropriate limitation period is the six years prescribed in Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1 (2), for liabilities created by statute.
this is a case of first impression, we are guided by this court’s opinion in Wollan v. Jahnz, 656 N.W.2d 416 (Minn.
App. 2003), concerning a similar issue. The Wollan
plaintiff was injured in a snowmobile accident caused by an intoxicated person under
On appeal, this court reversed,
concluding that Minn. Stat. § 541.07(1) did not apply because providing
alcoholic beverages to a minor is not a tort at common law.
Appellant argues that, because the
instant case involves damages resulting from a death, the relevant limitation
is set out in Minn. Stat. § 573.02 (2004), Action for Death by Wrongful Act,
providing that, in situations other than professional negligence or
murder, an action “may be commenced within three years after
the date of death.” But, just as the
claim in Wollan was not a tort claim,
the claim here is not a wrongful death claim.
A wrongful death action may be
brought only by a trustee appointed by the court at the request of the
decedent’s surviving spouse or next of kin.
Minn. Stat. § 573.02, subd. 1, subd. 3 (2006). The claim that gave rise to this appeal was
brought by the decedent’s father and sisters, in their own names, as persons
“injured . . . by the intoxication of another person under 21 years of
Appellant attempts to read into
Minn. Stat. § 340A.90 the distinction between the three-year limitation for
wrongful death actions prescribed by Minn. Stat. § 573.02 and the six-year
limitation for actions for other injuries prescribed by Minn. Stat. §
541.05. But Minn. Stat. § 340A.90 furnishes
no basis for this reading: it provides a cause of action for those injured by
the intoxication of a minor without reference to whether the intoxicated minor
died, was injured, or caused injury to others.
Had the legislature wished to include one or more limitation periods in
Minn. Stat. § 340A.90, it could have done so.
But this court cannot add to a statute what the legislature has either purposely
omitted or inadvertently overlooked. Ullom v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 112, 515
N.W.2d 615, 617 (
Finally, appellant invokes Minn. Stat. § 645.26, subd. 1 (2006), stating that, in statutory construction, the specific supercedes the general, to argue that Minn. Stat. § 573.02 applies because it pertains specifically to liability for wrongful death, while Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(2), pertains to any liability created by statute. This argument fails; the statutes cannot be compared on this basis. Minn. Stat. § 573.02 highlights the specific nature of the victim’s injury (wrongful death) while Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(2), emphasizes a statutory liability that can vary with any qualifying statute.
D E C I S I O N
Because appellant’s liability in this action was created by Minn. Stat. § 340A.90 (2004), the appropriate limitation period is the six years that Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(2) specifies for liabilities created by statute.
Certified question answered in the affirmative; affirmed.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
Because the question did not conform to Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 128.02, subd.
1(b) and contained a clerical error, we have reframed it. See
State v. Larivee, 656 N.W.2d 226, 228 (
The three other individuals whom respondents named as defendants take no part
in this appeal. Respondents also brought
a wrongful death action against the
 Wollan was brought under Minn. Stat. §
340A.801, subd. 6 (2002), against a seller of alcohol who had provided alcohol
to a person under 21; it holds that “the six-year limitations period under
Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(5) [for “any other injury. . . not arising out of
contract and not hereinafter enumerated”] is the proper measure” for such