This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







State of Minnesota, et al.,





Keith Dickerson, et al.,



Wilshire Wood-Techam, et al.,

Respondents Below.



Filed April 3, 2001

Reversed and remanded
Foley, Judge*


Hennepin County District Court

File No. CD2044


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Michael Alan Sindt, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN  55103 (for respondents)


Patrick J. Neaton, Neaton & Puklich, P.L.L.P., 445 Lake Street, Suite 333, Wayzata, MN 55391 (for appellants)


Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Foley, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellants argue that the condemnation damages awarded by the jury were unsupported by the evidence.  Because the jury’s responses on the special verdict form cannot be reconciled with, and are palpably contrary to, the evidence, we reverse and remand for a new trial.


            Appellants owned a commercial lot in Minnetonka that was approximately 44,000 square feet in size, located adjacent to, and north of, old Highway No. 12.  In September 1982, appellants’ predecessors in interest to the property entered into a 10-year lease with Naegele Outdoor Advertising (Naegele) pursuant to which Naegele constructed and maintained an outdoor advertising sign (billboard) on the southwesterly corner of the property.

            In connection with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s construction of Interstate Highway No. 394, respondent State of Minnesota, by quick-take, condemned 4,080 square feet in fee of appellants’ property and 400 square feet in temporary easement.  The billboard was located near, and encroached upon, the portion of property condemned. Because of this encroachment, the billboard had to be removed.

            An ordinance in effect at the time prohibited relocation of the billboard to another site on appellants’ property.  Naegele’s negotiations with the city failed and, therefore, Naegele settled with respondents for damages for the loss of the billboard itself.

At the condemnation proceeding, appellants submitted no evidence with regard to the damages it sustained as a result of the loss of the billboard site, even though the site was considered to have value because it allowed for advertising along a major roadway. Appellants were awarded $38,120. 

Appellants filed suit alleging that the condemnation damages were insufficient.  At trial, experts testified regarding the value of the condemned property.  The testimony and evidence established the following range of condemnation damages:

Hartner: Expert
for state at time
of condemnation
Rupert: Expert
for state at trial
Warner: Expert
for property
owners at trial
Per Square Foot





4080 Taking





Temp. Taking










Value of
Billboard site

Not Considered

Not Considered

payable to
Naegele, the

payable to
appellants, the

Total Damages






            The special verdict form signed by the jury stated:

            (1)       What is the just compensation for the property taken as of February 26, 1988?             $38,120


            (2) What is the fair market value of Naegele Outdoor Advertising Company’s leasehold interest, as of February 26, 1988?             $ 0


            (3)       What is the just compensation for the Dickerson’s, as of February 26, 1988?             $ 38,120


            By motion for new trial, appellants argued that the jury’s verdict was contrary to the evidence and constituted insufficient damages.  In addition, appellants argued that respondents had committed misconduct during opening statements.

The trial court found that the award of damages to appellants was $8,120 more than the amount submitted into evidence as the lowest total damages awardable and, therefore, was within the range of damages presented at trial.  Further, the trial court found that respondents did not commit misconduct prejudicing appellants.  The trial court denied appellants’ motion for new trial and this appeal followed.


            Appellants argue that the trial court erred in refusing to grant a new trial because the jury, contrary to the evidence, failed to award damages based on the value of the billboard site.

            On appeal from a denial of a motion for a new trial, an appellate court should not set aside a jury verdict unless it is manifestly and palpably contrary to the evidence viewed as a whole and in the light most favorable to the verdict.  An appellate court must reconcile the special verdict answers in a reasonable manner consistent with the evidence and its fair inferences.  The verdict should stand if the answers can be reconciled on any theory.


Raze v. Mueller, 587 N.W.2d 645, 648 (Minn. 1999) (quotations and citations omitted).  Because the jury did not award any damages for the value of the billboard site, despite testimony by both appellants’ expert and respondents’ expert that there was substantial value attributable to the value of the billboard site, the jury’s verdict is palpably contrary to the evidence and a new trial is required.

            The evidence before the jury established that the value of the property condemned, not including the billboard site, ranged between $30,000 and $40,660.  Thus, the trial court was correct in noting that the jury’s answer to question number three, awarding appellants $38,120 was within the range of evidence, i.e. within $30,000 to $185,238.  However, a reading of the entire verdict leads us to the conclusion that the jury’s answers cannot be reconciled with the evidence and are confusing. 

            In addition to the evidence of the property value attributable to the fee in the 4,080 square feet and the temporary easement, the evidence before the jury established that the value of the billboard site ranged from $58,500 to $145,578.    Based on the evidence before the jury, the range for the total value of the property taken on February 26, 1988, which included the value of the fee in the 4,080 square feet, the temporary easement, and the billboard site, was $88,500 to $185,238.  We conclude that the jury’s response to question number one on the special verdict form of $38,120 is palpably contrary to the evidence because it is not within the range established by the evidence.  Cf. Peters v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 657, 477 N.W.2d 757, 760  (Minn. App. 1991) (affirming denial of motion for new trial on basis of jury error where award of past damages of $21,500 and future damages of $90,000 within reasonable range justified by evidence).  Further, both parties agree that someone, either appellants or Naegele, is entitled to at least $58,500 for the value of the billboard site.  Yet, the jury’s answers to questions two and three do not indicate that an award for damages based on the value of the billboard site was made.   Accordingly, the jury’s special verdict answers cannot be reconciled, and appellants are entitled to a new trial. See Carnahan v. Walsh, 416 N.W.2d 187, 189 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12 1988) (remanding for new trial where special verdict questions could not be reconciled because jury failed to award general damages despite evidence of such); Bogut v. Janetta, 410 N.W.2d 451, 454 (Minn. App. 1987) (same).  The trial court order denying appellants’ motion for new trial is reversed and the matter is remanded for a new trial.  Because we are reversing and remanding the matter for new trial on this issue, we need not reach the issue of attorney misconduct.

            On remand the court may wish to reframe the special verdict form submitted to the jury to more appropriately reflect the matter and thus avoid confusion, since both parties conceded that the confusion may have arisen out of the fact that Naegele had already settled with respondents for their portion of damages.

            Reversed and remanded.

* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.