This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Hennepin County District Court
File No. PD9912815
Mohammed Shahidullah, Box 907, Winsted, MN 55395 (pro se appellant)
Barbara A. Becker, University Student Legal Service, 160 West Bank Skyway, 219 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Appellant Mohammed Shahidullah appeals the district court’s: (1) dismissal of his property-damage claim against respondents; (2) award of damages, a statutory penalty, costs, and attorney fees to respondents for appellant’s bad-faith litigation and his wrongful retention of respondents’ security deposit; and (3) denial of his motion for a new trial. We affirm.
Respondents became appellant’s tenants when appellant bought the property that respondents were leasing. When respondents vacated the property, appellant refused to refund their security deposit. Respondents filed a claim against appellant in conciliation court for return of their deposit. Respondents’ claim was removed to the district court where they asserted it as a counterclaim after appellant filed a complaint in district court alleging that respondents caused damage to the property in the amount of $15,000. Respondents requested that appellant’s complaint be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
The district court dismissed appellant’s claim for deficiencies in the pleadings and for failure to comply with the court’s pre-trial orders. The district court awarded judgment to respondents for their damage deposit plus costs, attorney fees for violating Minn. R. Civ. P. 11.02, and a penalty pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 504B.178, subd. 4 (2000), which authorizes the court to award a penalty equal to the amount of the deposit withheld plus interest. Appellant moved for a new trial. The district court denied appellant’s motion. This appeal is from the April 4, 2001 judgment against appellant and the order denying his motion for a new trial.
Appellant’s brief does not set out any legal theory to support his appeal, does not contain any citations to the record, and does not contain any legal authority. We note, at the outset, that this court could refuse to address appellant’s arguments based on his failure to adequately brief and analyze the issues. See State, Dep’t of Labor & Indus. v. Wintz Parcel Drivers, Inc., 558 N.W.2d 480, 480 (Minn. 1997) (declining to reach issue “in the absence of adequate briefing”); Ganguli v. Univ. of Minn., 512 N.W.2d 918, 919 n.1 (Minn. App. 1994) (acknowledging that an appellate court may refuse to address allegations lacking citation or analysis). Furthermore, appellant failed to order a trial transcript. The burden is on the appellant to provide an “adequate record” on review. Mesenbourg v. Mesenbourg, 538 N.W.2d 489, 494 (Minn. App. 1995). If an appellant fails to provide a transcript, this court is limited to deciding whether the district court’s findings support its conclusions of law. Id. Despite the inadequacy of appellant’s brief, we will review the district court’s findings to evaluate whether those findings support the court’s conclusions of law.
1. Dismissal of appellant’s claim
We find that the district court did not err by dismissing appellant’s property-damage claim against respondents. The district court made 23 detailed findings. The findings identify the orders that appellant failed to obey and describe the inadequacies in appellant’s pleadings. The findings support the court’s conclusion that appellant failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and failed to comply with the court’s pre-trial orders. Therefore, the district court did not err by dismissing appellant’s claim.
2. Award of damages to respondents
Appellant contends that the district court erred by granting judgment in favor of respondents on their counterclaim for a return of their security deposit. Appellant argues that a Minneapolis police department citation report, which apparently indicates that one of the respondents had received a citation for a “disruptive party,” proves that respondents caused property damage to appellant’s property. This report, however, was not introduced into evidence at trial. Therefore, we will not consider this evidence. See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.01 (defining record on appeal as documents filed with the district court); Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582-83 (Minn. 1988) (stating that “[a]n appellate court may not base its decision on matters outside the record on appeal, and may not consider matters not produced and received in evidence below”).
The district court found that respondents gave timely notice of their intent to vacate, thoroughly cleaned the premises to as good as or better condition than when they moved in, and gave notice of their forwarding address for return of the security deposit. Appellant failed to return the respondents’ security deposit and did not provide them with a written statement explaining why he retained their deposit. See Minn. Stat. § 504B.178, subds. 3, 4 (2000) (stating landlord must return security deposit or provide written statement within three weeks after termination of tenancy).
The district court found that appellant did not meet his burden of proving a valid reason for withholding the deposit. As a result, the court imposed a penalty on appellant and awarded punitive damages to respondents based on appellant’s bad-faith retention of the security deposit. See Minn. Stat. § 504B.178, subds. 4, 7 (2000).
Because the district court’s findings support its conclusion that appellant improperly withheld respondents’ security deposit, the district court did not err by awarding damages to respondents, including a penalty and punitive damages.
3. Rule 11 sanctions
Appellant also appeals the district court’s award of attorney fees and costs to respondents. The district court concluded that respondents were entitled to reimbursement for their costs, and, because appellant had violated Minn. R. Civ. P. 11.02, respondents were entitled to recover attorney fees.
When examining a district court’s award of attorney fees and costs, this court must determine whether the court abused its discretion. Minn. Council of Dog Clubs v. City of Minneapolis, 540 N.W.2d 903, 904 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Jan. 25, 1996). This court also reviews “the propriety of rule 11 sanctions” under an abuse-of-discretion standard. Leonard v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 605 N.W.2d 425, 432 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Apr. 18, 2000).
Appellant was aware of respondents’ intent to seek sanctions. Respondents notified appellant of their intent to seek sanctions on May 19, 1999 and April 6, 2000. Additionally, two of the court’s pre-trial orders admonished the parties that failure to comply with the orders’ provisions could result in the imposition of costs against the non-complying party. Appellant violated two of the district court’s pre-trial orders and his complaint did not adequately state a claim against respondents. The district court’s award of costs and attorney fees to respondents was not an abuse of discretion.
Appellant argues that the district court erred by denying his motion for a new trial. In general, the decision to grant a new trial lies within the sound discretion of the trial court and the decision will not be disturbed “absent a clear abuse of that discretion.” Halla Nursery, Inc. v. Baumann-Furrie & Co., 454 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn. 1990) (citation omitted).
Appellant’s motion for a new trial listed eight reasons why he deserves a new trial. None of these arguments has merit. Because appellant has not presented any basis entitling him to a new trial, the district court did not abuse its discretion by failing to grant his motion for a new trial.
5. District court’s denial of request to disqualify respondents’ attorney
Appellant additionally claims that the district court erred by refusing to disqualify respondents’ attorney. But appellant cited no authority in the district court or on appeal to support his claim that respondents’ attorney should have been disqualified. The district court found appellant’s request without merit, and we agree.