STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Petition of:
Michael C. Rollins for the Establishment of a Cartway.
part and reversed in part
Cass County District Court
File No. 11-CV-06-286
Hendricks, Hendricks Law Firm,
Timothy J. Grande, Frederick W. Vogt, Mackall, Crounse & Moore, PLC, 1400 AT&T Tower, 901 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402-2859 (for respondents Ivan and Lois Krueger)
G. Andersen, Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A., 300
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Muehlberg, Judge.
Cartways created under
Minn. Stat. § 164.08 (2006) are intended to connect otherwise inaccessible
parcels of land to a public road.
O P I N I O N
Appellant Michael Rollins, who owns land on the west shore of Bear Island on Leech Lake, petitioned respondent Cass County for a cartway to provide access to his land from the east side of the island over land owned by respondents Ivan and Lois Krueger. When the county denied Rollins’s petition, he appealed the denial to the district court. By summary judgment, the district court affirmed the county’s decision, denied Rollins’s motion for sanctions, and awarded the Kruegers attorney fees and costs from Rollins. Rollins appeals. The proposed cartway would not connect Rollins’s land to a public road. Therefore, Rollins is not entitled to a cartway, and the district court properly affirmed the county’s denial of the cartway petition. But because the district court failed to cite any authority to support its award of attorney fees and costs to the Kruegers, and because the relevant portions of the record do not clarify the question, we, on this record, reverse the award of fees and costs against Rollins.
In 1999, Rollins started proceedings to gain an access to his land by a route partially over the platted trail and partially over the Kruegers’ land. Rollins’s legal proceedings culminated in a May 2005 judgment and a September 2005 order in which the district court rejected Rollins’s claims that a road following the cleared trail existed by statutory dedication, that a road existed following the cleared trail by common-law dedication, that he had an easement by implication or necessity following the cleared trail, and that he had an easement by prescription following the cleared trail. Other issues regarding “damages” were apparently not resolved at that time.
Two weeks after the district court’s September order, Rollins petitioned the county to establish a cartway across the Kruegers’ land following the cleared trail.
Before the district court tried the remaining damages issues, Rollins petitioned this court for a “writ of prohibition/mandamus” to remove the district court judge then presiding over the matter. This court denied the petition.
In December 2005, the county denied Rollins’s cartway petition, and in January 2006, he started a new district court proceeding when he appealed the county’s denial of his cartway petition to district court. In February 2006, the district court’s determinations in the first (dedication and easement) action were challenged in this court when Rollins appealed, and the Kruegers filed a notice of review.
After an August 9 district court hearing on the parties’ summary-judgment motions in Rollins’s appeal of the denial of his cartway petition, the district court granted the Kruegers summary judgment affirming the county’s denial of Rollins’s cartway petition, denying Rollins’s motion for sanctions against the Kruegers, finding Rollins’s motion for sanctions to be in bad faith, and awarding the Kruegers $4,732 in attorney fees and costs they incurred in defending against Rollins’s motion for sanctions. On September 19, this court affirmed the district court’s rulings in the appeal then pending in this court. Rollins v. Krueger, No. A06-248, 2006 WL 2677833, at *1 (Minn. App. Sept. 19, 2006). In November, Rollins filed this appeal from the district court’s summary judgment affirming the county’s denial of Rollins’s cartway petition and the award to the Kruegers of fees and costs.
1. Did the district court err by granting summary judgment affirming the county’s denial of Rollins’s cartway petition?
2. Does the record support the award to the Kruegers of attorney fees and costs they incurred in defending against Rollins’s motion for sanctions?
“A town board[] shall establish a cartway upon a petition of an owner of a tract of land . . . [who] has no access thereto except over a navigable waterway or over the lands of others.” Minn. Stat. § 164.08, subd. 2(a) (2006); see also Minn. Stat. § 645.44, subd. 16 (2006) (stating “‘[s]hall’ is mandatory”). Here, the district court’s summary judgment affirmed the county’s denial of Rollins’s cartway petition by ruling that Rollins already had direct access to his property across Leech Lake and that Rollins’s reading of the statute to allow him “a right to access his property over land belonging to the Kruegers when weather prohibits travel to the west side of the island, but provides a safe journey from the east side of the island . . . would wreak havoc upon nearly every island upon every body of water in Minnesota[.]” Citing the portion of the cartway statute stating that a cartway “shall” be established where a landowner has no access to his property “except over a navigable waterway or over the land of others[,]” Rollins argues that the district court erred by using what it determined was his direct access to his property from the lake as a basis for affirming the county’s denial of the cartway petition.
appeal from summary judgment, appellate courts address two questions “(1) whether
there are any genuine issues of material fact and (2) whether the lower courts
erred in their application of the law.” In re Daniel, 656 N.W.2d 543, 545 (
The purpose of a cartway is to “connect a petitioner’s land with a public road.” Daniel, 656 N.W.2d at 546. Rollins, however, seeks a cartway to connect his property with the lake. “Public road” for cartway purposes is not explicitly defined by statute or by caselaw. For the reasons stated below, however, we conclude that the lake is not a public road for cartway purposes.
Cartways are addressed in chapter 164
of the Minnesota Statutes. The
definitions in Minn. Stat. § 160.02 (2006) apply to chapter 164, but those
definitions lack a definition of “public road.”
[f]or the purposes of chapters 160 to 165 the roads of this state shall be designated and referred to as trunk highways, county state-aid highways, municipal state-aid streets, county highways, and town roads. They shall be established, located, constructed, reconstructed, improved, and maintained as provided in chapters 160 to 165 and acts amendatory thereto.
Stat. § 160.01, subd. 1; see
Minn. Stat. § 160.01, subd. 2 (excluding some city streets from the
categories of roads listed in Minn. Stat. § 160.01, subd. 1). Because the non-city-street “roads of this
state” are, at least for purposes of chapters 160 to 165, divided into the
categories listed, and because the categories listed do not include waterways,
we decline to read the relevant statutes to include
Rollins argues that the lake can be deemed a public road because it is a navigable water and caselaw treats navigable waters as “public highways.” To support his argument that navigable waters are treated as “public highways,” Rollins cites two cases.
The first case Rollins cites is Page v. Mille Lacs Lumber Co., 53
In reevaluating its prior holding
regarding the circumstances under which a private action may be maintained for
a public nuisance, Page incidentally
states that “[t]he general doctrine in reference to the use of navigable
streams as public highways is that each person has an equal right to their
reasonable use [of the stream]” and that “in most respects streams used for
highway purposes are governed by the same general rules of law as are highways
second case Rollins cites involved a challenge to the issuance of public bonds
to finance the alteration of bridges over the Mississippi River to ensure a
minimum clearance above the river. Bybee v. City of Minneapolis, 208 Minn.
55, 55-56, 292 N.W. 617, 617 (1940). In
doing so, it takes judicial notice “that the Mississippi River is a navigable
stream within the requirements specified in Lamprey
v. State, 52
Rollins moved the district court, under Minn. Stat. § 549.211 (2006) and Minn. R. Civ. P. 11, for sanctions against the Kruegers and the county. The day before the hearing, the Kruegers submitted a memorandum and supporting affidavit opposing Rollins’s motion. The memorandum cited Minn. Stat. § 549.211, subd. 4(a), and rule 11 to argue that Rollins’s motion for sanctions was unsupported, made in bad faith, and that they should be awarded $4,732 in expenses and fees for defending against Rollins’s motion. The affidavit averred that the Kruegers had incurred $2,532 in fees and expenses defending against Rollins’s motion for sanctions and that they expected to incur an additional $2,200 by the conclusion of the hearing. The district court denied Rollins’s motions, found that Rollins’s “motion for sanctions [was] made in bad faith and warrants sanctions[,]” and awarded the Kruegers $4,732 “for attorney’s fees and reasonable costs incurred in defending [against Rollins’s] motion for sanctions.” Rollins challenges this award.
Fee awards under Minn. Stat.
§ 549.211 and rule 11 are discretionary with the district court and will
not be altered on appeal absent an abuse of discretion, but appellate courts
review de novo a district court’s construction of statutes and rules, including
Minn. Stat. § 549.211 and rule 11. Johnson ex rel. Johnson v. Johnson, 726
N.W.2d 516, 518 (
Alternatively, a party prevailing in a sanctions dispute under Minn. Stat. § 549.211 “may” be awarded “the reasonable expenses and attorney fees incurred in presenting or opposing the motion.” Minn. Stat. § 549.211, subd. 4(a). The Kruegers’ memorandum seeking to recover fees and costs incurred in defending against Rollins’s motion for sanctions invoked this provision but, as noted, the district court did not cite any authority for its award. Thus, the district court’s failure to rely on the explicitly cited Minn. Stat. § 549.211, subd. 4(a), renders that provision conspicuous by its absence from the district court’s order. Also, as described above, there is at least some indication that the district court may have been thinking of Minn. Stat. § 549.211, subd. 4(b), when it made its award. On this confused record, and given both the lack of authority cited by the district court and the fact that the Kruegers’ request was made the day before the hearing, we decline to affirm the award of attorney fees and costs against Rollins based on an invocation of Minn. Stat. § 549.211, subd. 4(a), the authority that the district court apparently implicitly rejected. Therefore, we reverse the award of attorney fees and costs against Rollins.
D E C I S I O N
Affirmed in part and reversed in part.
*Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
“In an unorganized territory, the board of county commissioners of the county
in which the tract is located shall act as the town board.”
 The county argues that under In re Daniel, 644 N.W.2d 495 (Minn. App. 2002), whatever a “public road” is defined to be, it requires a legally enforceable right to access over a road controlled by a public authority. The cited Daniel opinion, however, was reversed by the supreme court. Daniel, 656 N.W.2d at 546.