This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






City of Delano,





William Abene,



Filed December 11, 2001

Reversed and remanded

Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge


Wright County District Court

File No. C1991377


Joseph A. Nilan, Lang, Pauly, Gregerson & Rosow, Ltd., 1600 Park Building, 650 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55402-4337 (for appellant)


Laurel E. Learmonth, Primus Law Office, P.A., 630 Wells Fargo Midland Building, 401 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2350 (for respondent)


Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


The district court awarded judgment to appellant City of Delano, determining that respondent’s buildings were hazardous, but denied appellant’s request for attorney fees and expenses.  Appellant challenges the denial on appeal.  Because appellant is entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees and expenses in a hazardous-buildings proceeding, we reverse and remand.


Respondent William Abene owns two connected buildings in the City of Delano.  After a building inspector determined that Abene’s property constituted health, safety, and fire hazards, the city ordered Abene to raze the buildings.

Abene answered the order, contending that the buildings were not hazardous, or, if any hazards existed, they could be corrected.

After a trial, the district court found that it was unreasonable for the city not to have included repair provisions in its order, and the court ordered that Abene be allowed time to repair the hazardous conditions.  The court then directed the parties to submit repair proposals.  After the parties did so, the district court entered its order for judgment, determining that Abene’s buildings were hazardous and providing the manner and time allotted for repair of the hazardous conditions.

The city then moved for an award of its expenses, including attorney fees, incurred in prosecuting the hazardous buildings action.  The court denied the motion.


The law pertaining to hazardous buildings provides that the municipality shall keep an accurate account of the expenses and attorney fees it incurs in enforcing its order and “[t]hereupon the court shall examine, correct, if necessary, and allow the expense account * * *.”  Minn. Stat. §  463.22 (2000).

Statutory construction is a matter of law, which this court reviews de novo.  Brookfield Trade Ctr., Inc. v. County of Ramsey, 584 N.W.2d 390, 393 (Minn. 1998).  Application of a statute to the undisputed facts of a case involves a question of law, and the district court’s decision is not binding on this court.  O’Malley v. Ulland Bros., 549 N.W.2d 889, 892 (Minn. 1996).  Basic rules of statutory construction instruct that words and phrases are to be construed according to their plain and ordinary meaning.  Frank’s Nursery Sales, Inc. v. City of Roseville, 295 N.W.2d 604, 608 (Minn. 1980).  A statute should be interpreted, whenever possible, to give effect to all of its provisions, and “no word, phrase, or sentence should be deemed superfluous, void, or insignificant.”  Amaral v. Saint Cloud Hosp., 598 N.W.2d 379, 384 (Minn. 1999).  Our primary objective in interpreting statutory language is to give effect to the legislature’s intent as expressed in the language of the statute.  Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2000).

We have previously interpreted section 463.22 to require the allowance of expenses even when the district court substantially modified the municipality’s order so as to give the owner of a hazardous building an opportunity to make repairs.  City of Litchfield v. Schwanke, 530 N.W.2d 580, 583 (Minn. App. 1995).  The district court here also ordered the modification of the City of Delano’s order to allow Abene an opportunity to repair his buildings.  Therefore, on the basis of Schwanke, the district court erred in denying the city’s motion for expenses.

The municipality may recover its expenses only after the district court has examined the account and made necessary corrections.  Minn. Stat. § 463.22.  The nonexclusive list of the types of expenses that may be recovered includes filing and service fees, publication costs, appraisers’ fees, witness fees, attorney fees, and transportation costs.  Because the statute gives the court the authority to “correct” the municipality’s account, it implies that the court may determine the reasonableness of the expenses.  This comports with well-established law.  See Minn. Stat. § 357.25 (2000) (district court may allow any expert witness fees as may be just and reasonable); Youngquist v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 625 N.W.2d 178, 188 (Minn. App. 2001) (award of attorney fees within district court’s discretion); Carlson v. Mut. Serv. Cas. Ins. Co., 527 N.W.2d 580, 584 (Minn. App. 1995) (determination of reasonable costs and witness fees are within the discretion of the district court), review denied (Minn. Apr. 27, 1995); Mohwinkel v. City of North Saint Paul, 357 N.W.2d 174,176-77 (Minn. App. 1984) (characterizing a real-estate appraiser as an expert witness), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1985).

Because the district court found that Abene’s buildings were hazardous, and because the city acted within its statutory authority to remedy the hazards, the city is entitled under the authority of Minn. Stat. § 463.22 and Schwanke, 530 N.W.2d at 583, to recover its expenses in amounts the district court determines, on remand, to be proper and reasonable.

Reversed and remanded.

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