This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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








Darrell L. Rettke, et al.,

Respondents (C2-01-452),

Appellants (C2-01-466),




David B. Rettke, et al.,

Appellants (C2-01-452),

Respondents (C2-01-466).


Filed October 2, 2001


Parker, Judge*


Watonwan County District Court

File No. C698236



LaMar Piper, Piper Law Firm, 615 Second Avenue South, P.O. Box 109, St. James, MN 56081 (for Darrell Rettke, et al.)


Steven R. Sunde, Sunde, Olson, Kircher and Zender, 108 Armstrong Boulevard South, P.O. Box 506, St. James, MN 56081 (for David Rettke, et al.)



            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Parker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


These consolidated appeals arise out of the dissolution of a grain-farming joint venture between brothers Darrell and David Rettke.[1]  Both David and Darrell[2] challenge the trial court’s decisions on the property valuations, costs, and expenses associated with disposal of the joint-venture assets.  This court consolidated the appeals.   David contends that the trial court’s valuation of jointly owned real estate and a machine/storage shed was not reasonably supported by the evidence.   David also alleges that the court did not adequately explain the rationale in denying his request for compensation for the decreased value of the farm machinery awarded him.   Darrell contends that the trial court’s amended valuation of the shed and findings regarding money owed for repairs on David’s farm machinery and in-town storage costs were not reasonably supported by the evidence.  Darrell also maintains that the court erred in denying his claim for lost profits and in disposing of the soybean crop.  Because the trial court did not misapply the law or make findings unsupported by the record, we affirm.


This court will set aside underlying factual findings only if they are clearly erroneous. McCulloch v. McCulloch, 435 N.W.2d 564, 566 (Minn. App. 1989).  A finding is clearly erroneous if the “reviewing court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.”  Gjovik v. Strope, 401 N.W.2d 664, 667 (Minn. 1987) (citation omitted).  The evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court’s findings.  Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 472 (Minn. App. 2000). 

A joint venture is not a partnership in a strict legal sense but “the rules and principles applicable to a partnership relation, with few if any material exceptions, govern and control the [parties’] rights, duties, and obligations.”  Rehnberg v. Minnesota Homes, Inc., 236 Minn. 230, 235,  52 N.W.2d 454, 457 (1952) (footnote omitted).

1.         David Rettke’s Claims

a.         Valuation of Real Estate

David alleges that the trial court’s valuation of the real estate was not reasonably supported by the evidence because the court impermissibly gave more credence to the testimony of Darrell.  This court will not reverse a trial court’s valuation of an asset unless it is “clearly erroneous on the record as a whole.”  Hertz v. Hertz, 304 Minn. 144, 145, 229 N.W.2d 42, 44 (1975) (citing Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01) . 

At trial, both parties presented testimony regarding the value of a 40-acre tract and an 80-acre tract of land jointly owned by the parties.  Darrell testified that the 80-acre tract had an average per-acre value of $1,500 and the 40-acre tract of land had an average per-acre value of $1,950.[3]  Previously, at his deposition, Darrell had estimated the values at $1,800 and $2,050, respectively.  Darrell explained at trial that the value of the land had dropped due to “the bad farm economy and the bad outlook for the future of the farm economy.”  David disagreed with the value of the 80-acre parcel and estimated it was worth $1,800.

It was not error for the trial court to adopt Darrell’s valuations of the land over David’s estimates.  Property owners are presumptively familiar with, and may testify to, the value of their property.  Lehman v. Hansord Pontiac Co., 246 Minn. 1, 6, 74 N.W.2d 305, 309 (1955).  The trial court apparently found Darrell’s testimony more credible, and this court generally does not disturb credibility determinations.  See Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (“[D]ue regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.”).

b.         Valuation of Shed

David contends that the trial court’s valuation of the shed was not reasonably supported by the evidence.  In the context of a marriage dissolution, the trial court need not be exact in the valuation of assets; “it is only necessary that the value arrived at lies within a reasonable range of figures.”  Johnson v. Johnson, 277 N.W.2d 208, 211 (Minn. 1979) (citation omitted).  The brothers owned a shed for grain and equipment storage that was located on David’s property.  At the time of trial, the court valued the shed at $50,000, presumably based on Darrell Rettke’s valuation of the shed.[4]  In its amended order for judgment, the court re-valued the shed at $31,000,[5] taking into account estimated wind and hail damages.[6]

Because the valuation of the shed falls within a reasonable range of estimates given by the parties, we affirm the court’s valuation of the shed.          

c.         Farm Equipment

Finally, David contends that between the time of the trial on March 1, 1999, and the “final post trial order” of August 8, 2000, farm equipment and other personal property awarded to him, but not yet given to him, had significantly diminished in value due to Darrell’s negligent care of the property.

The trial court adopted the findings of the court-assigned referee in this regard.  “The findings of a referee, to the extent adopted by the court, shall be considered as the findings of the court.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.  The court specifically found that David failed to show that Darrell had intentionally or negligently damaged David’s property.  David offered only his affidavit in support of his claims, which the court seemingly considered but did not find compelling.  The trial court determined that any damage that may have occurred was the result of weathering or other causes for which Darrell was not liable.  Without any evidence to the contrary, these findings were not clearly erroneous.  See Wilson v. Moline, 234 Minn. 174, 182, 47 N.W.2d 865, 870 (1951) (stating appellate court need not discuss evidence in detail for purpose of showing it supports trial court’s findings).

2.         Darrell Rettke’s Claims

a.         Valuation of Shed

Darrell claims that the trial court’s amended valuation of the shed at $31,000 was not reasonably supported by the evidence.  As stated above, the court’s valuation of the shed falls within a reasonable range of estimates given by the parties and is not clearly erroneous.

b.         Repairs

Darrell also disputes the trial court’s award of $1,973.15 in equipment repair to David.  The court adopted the referee’s findings and found that Darrell was required to share in the cost of the repairs because the repairs related back to when the joint venture was still in existence and “[s]uch repairs were normally divided equally between the parties in the furtherance of said joint venture.”[7]  Darrell has failed to show that these findings were not reasonably supported by the evidence.  See Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d at 474 (stating “the party challenging the findings must show that despite viewing that evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's findings * * * the record still requires the definite and firm conviction that a mistake was made”). 

c.         Lost Profits

            Darrell challenges the trial court’s denial of his claim for lost profits.  A business can recover damages for loss of prospective profits provided that the amount is established to a reasonable degree of certainty.  Leoni v. Bemis Co., 255 N.W.2d 824, 826 (Minn. 1977).  Darrell maintains that David misappropriated a joint-venture opportunity by making arrangements without him to farm the Christianson and Krueger farms in 1998, as they had done together in the past.

            The trial court’s denial of Darrell’s claim is supported by the record because both parties agree the joint venture was terminated before any final agreement to rent the farmland was reached.[8]  As a result, David owed no fiduciary duty to Darrell in the leasing of the land.  See Pedro v. Pedro, 489 N.W.2d 798, 801 (Minn. App. 1992) (defining fiduciary duty as “dealing openly, honestly and fairly with other [partners].” (quotation omitted)), review denied (Minn. Oct. 20, 1992).

             Moreover, Darrell presented no evidence that he attempted to lease the land on his own but was prevented from doing so.  See Cardinal Consulting Co. v. Circo Resorts, Inc., 297 N.W.2d 260, 266 (Minn. 1980) (providing that party claiming lost profits must show causation).  Even assuming there was a breach of fiduciary duty, the court found Darrell’s handwritten estimates of lost profits to be speculative and conjectural.  “As a general rule, damages which are speculative, remote, or conjectural are not recoverable.”  Hornblower & Weeks-Hemphill Noyes v. Lazere, 301 Minn. 462, 467,  222 N.W.2d 799, 803 (1974) (citations omitted).  Based on the record as a whole, the trial court did not err in denying Darrell’s claim of lost profits.

d.         Soybeans

            The trial court adopted the referee’s estimated total of 55,514.14 bushels of soybeans.  Darrell contends that this estimate is wrong because it is neither his nor David’s estimate.  This claim is without merit.  This court will not disturb “findings having reasonable support in the evidence, even though [the evidence offered] is conflicting.”  Knutson v. Lasher, 219 Minn. 594, 603, 18 N.W.2d 688, 694 (1945) (citation omitted).  There is reasonable evidence to support the trial court’s findings in this regard.

Darrell argues that the distribution of the soybeans was incorrect for similar reasons.  The trial court may use its inherent equitable power to divide property as long as the business “is not liable for any * * * debts and can be divided without prejudice to the owners.”   Schoenborn v. Schoenborn, 402 N.W.2d 212, 214-15 (Minn. App. 1987) (citation omitted).  Viewing the record as a whole, the disposition of the soybeans was just and equitable.

e.         Storage Costs

Finally, Darrell claims there was no legal justification for compelling him to pay grain-storage costs.  Darrell maintains that he overpaid David for storage costs, but fails to offer any evidence to support this claim; he merely alleges that the court’s earlier orders obligating him to pay storage costs were unfair.  Without more, his allegations are meaningless.[9]  See Schoepke v. Alexander Smith & Sons Carpet Co., 290 Minn. 518, 519-20, 187 N.W.2d 133, 135 (1971) (stating “assignment of error based on mere assertion and not supported by any argument or authorities in appellant’s brief is waived and will not be considered on appeal unless prejudicial error is obvious on mere inspection” (citations omitted)).



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

[1] Darrell Rettke’s wife Christian and David Rettke’s wife Sandee are parties to the action, but their interests are limited to marital interests in real property.


[2] To avoid confusion, we must deviate from our normal practice of referring to the parties by their surnames or status on appeal.

[3]  The trial court awarded the 80-acre parcel of land to Darrell and the 40-acre parcel to David.  David does not contest the valuation of the 40-acre parcel.


[4] Darrell testified that he considered the original bid on the shed of approximately $40,000, the brothers’ contributions in labor and materials of approximately $15,000, the size of the shed 60’ x 108’, and the current cost of storing grain per year ($19,440).  He then estimated the replacement value at $116,000, and divided that number by two for a value of $58,000, minus $8,000 for moving fees.


[5] The court explained that it started with the original bid of $40,000, subtracted estimated wind and hail damages of $12,000, and added $3,000, rather than the $15,000 proposed by Darrell as the estimated value of the brothers’ labor and materials.


[6] During the joint venture, the brothers collected approximately $12,000 from insurance claims for hail damage, which they never used to repair the shed.



[7] The trial court found that although the farm equipment was owned solely by David, it was “used in furtherance of the business of the joint venture” and the brothers shared in the costs of replacing or repairing “certain items of privately owned machinery.”


[8] Darrell testified that in prior years, the lease agreement had been in writing and conceded that there was no written agreement to jointly lease the land in 1998.


[9]  David claims that the appendix to Darrell’s brief violates Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 132.01, subd. 3.  This claim is without merit.