This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Gary G. Engler, et al.,
Franklin Outdoor Advertising Company,
Stearns County District Court
File No. C099176
Michael M. Murphy, Murphy Law Offices, 30 North 7th Avenue, P.O. Box 866, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0866 (for appellants)
Thomas W. Lies, Pennington & Lies, P.A., 1111 North 1st Street, P.O. Box 1756, St. Cloud, MN 56302-1756 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.*
Respondent leased billboard space on a parcel of real estate under a written lease. When the lessor sold the real estate to appellants, they contended the lease was invalid because it had been improperly acknowledged and the legal description had been corrected without lessor's knowledge before recording. The district court held the lease valid and granted summary judgment in respondent's favor. We affirm.
Michael S. Flynn owned a parcel of real estate in Stearns County commonly known as 2809 Clearwater Road. James A. Franklin, owner of Franklin Outdoor Advertising Company, asked Flynn if he would lease a portion of the property for placement of a billboard.
The men walked to a particular area of the parcel and Flynn said that the billboard could be placed there. They put a stake in the ground to mark the location and memorialized their agreement in a written lease dated July 10, 1987.
The lease provided for an initial ten-year term with renewal rights for two additional ten-year terms, and was to bind the parties' successors and assigns. The lease did not designate the portion of the parcel on which the billboard was to be placed nor did it contain the correct legal description of the property. After obtaining the necessary municipal building permit, Franklin's company erected the billboard on the precise spot Flynn had designated.
After Flynn and Franklin signed the lease, Franklin's son attempted to record it. The registrar of titles noted that the legal description of Flynn's torrens property was incorrectly stated on the lease and the lease lacked an acknowledgment. Franklin's son scratched out the incorrect legal description and added the correct one. He then had a company secretary acknowledge the signatures of his father and Flynn. The registrar of titles recorded the altered lease.
On April 30, 1997, Gary G. Engler agreed to purchase from Flynn the property known as 2809 Clearwater Road. The purchase agreement contained no legal description but provided "legal to govern." In an addendum to the purchase agreement, Flynn disclosed the billboard lease with the Franklin Company.
Engler knew of the existence of the billboard when he agreed to purchase the property. He discussed with Franklin the possibility of moving the billboard so that he could erect a building at that location. Ultimately, Engler took the position that the billboard lease was not valid and he demanded that Franklin pay a higher rent or remove the billboard.
Contending that the altered recorded lease was invalid, Engler sued the Franklin company for ejectment and other relief. The Franklin company moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion, ruling that Engler had actual and constructive notice of a valid billboard lease.
D E C I S I O N
Summary judgment is appropriate where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Wartnick v. Moss & Barnett, 490 N.W.2d 108, 112 (Minn. 1992), rehearing denied (Dec. 9, 1992). All evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment is granted and any doubts as to whether there is an issue of material fact must likewise be resolved in favor of the appellant. Id.
A basic requirement of contract law is that there must be a meeting of the minds concerning the essential elements of a contract. Minneapolis Cablesystems v. City of Minneapolis, 299 N.W.2d 121, 122 (Minn. 1980). “Whether a contract is formed is judged objectively by the conduct of the parties, not by their subjective intent.” Crince v. Kulzer, 498 N.W.2d 55, 57 (Minn. App. 1993).
It is undisputed that Flynn and the Franklin company intended a ten-year lease, with two ten-year renewal terms, for the erection and maintenance of a billboard on a specific portion of Flynn's land located at 2809 Clearwater Road in Stearns County. It is also undisputed that the lease was to run with the land, that the recorded lease alterations did not change any of the lease terms, and that Engler had actual notice of the existence and location of the billboard and the lease terms before he purchased the land from Flynn.
Although an improper acknowledgment and a corrected legal description may have been relevant to the recordability of the lease, neither affected the essential elements of the lease to which the parties agreed and which had been performed for nearly ten years. The district court did not err in granting summary judgment to respondent.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.