This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re: Mary D. Swenson,
Ronald D. Swenson,
Filed September 24, 2002
Polk County District Court
File No. F901345
Thomas L. D’Albani, Cann, Haskell, D’Albani & Schueppert, P.A., 205 Seventh Street Northwest, Bemidji, MN 56601 (for respondent)
Kevin T. Duffy, 1008 W. 2nd Street, Suite 201, P.O. Box 715, Thief River Falls, MN 56701 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.*
In this property division dispute, appellant Ronald Swenson contends that (1) the record does not support the district court’s valuation of two parcels of the parties’ land, and (2) the district court awarded respondent Mary Swenson a disproportionately large share of the marital property. We affirm.
On appeal from a judgment where there has been no motion for new trial, the only questions for review are whether the evidence sustains the findings of fact and whether such findings sustain the conclusions of law and the judgment.
Erickson v. Erickson, 434 N.W.2d 284, 286 (Minn. App. 1989) (citation omitted). Appellant failed to move for a new trial. But because of the unique facts of this case, we address the merits of appellant’s arguments. See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.04 (stating appellate courts have discretion to address any issue that justice requires); see also Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 350 (Minn. 2002) (stating appellate courts can take “any action as the interests of justice may require”) (quotation omitted).
An appellate court will not reverse a district 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) (citations omitted); see also March v. March, 435 N.W.2d 569, 572 (Minn. App. 1989).
Appellant contends the district court erred in valuing the parties’ real property. We disagree. The district court found that the parties’ two parcels of real property had values of $28,000 and $60,000 respectively. In arriving at these figures, the district court adopted the figures submitted by respondent’s witness, a farm auctioneer, who testified at trial.
Appellant contends that respondent’s witness was not qualified to accurately assess the value of the properties. But appellant never objected to the witness’s qualifications at trial. Because appellant failed to preserve the issue of respondent’s witness’s qualifications for appeal, this question is not properly before this court. See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (stating issues will not be considered when raised for the first time on appeal). However, even if we were to consider appellant’s argument, it fails on its merits.
Evidentiary rulings, including decisions regarding expert testimony,
lie within the sound discretion of the [district court]. * * * A trial judge is given wide latitude in determining whether there is sufficient foundation upon which an expert may state an opinion. Even if this court would have reached a different conclusion as to the sufficiency of the foundation, the decision of the trial judge will not be reversed absent clear abuse of discretion.
Benson v. Northern Gopher Enters., 455 N.W.2d 444, 445-46 (Minn. 1990) (citations omitted).
The district court found that respondent’s witness was qualified to value real estate since it adopted his valuations. Because respondent’s witness had experience in farm auctions and real estate sales, we conclude that the record supports the district court’s determination that respondent’s witness was qualified to assess the value of the properties. See Minn. R. Evid. 702 (stating “a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify [by] * * * opinion or otherwise” if it will assist the trier of fact).
Moreover, appellant offered no contrary evidence regarding the value of the properties. Thus, because evidence in the record supports the district court’s valuation, we conclude the district court did not clearly err in valuing the properties.
Appellant further contends that the parcel he was awarded is landlocked, and respondent’s expert testified that he valued the property as if it were accessible by an easement. Appellant’s only evidence was some vague testimony regarding a problem with the easement from one of his witnesses. Appellant’s witness testified that she signed a quitclaim deed and that
on my quitclaim, I didn’t realize it at the time but that cut off the easement to that 40-acre property so nobody can get on it. And these people, I wouldn’t want to be the ones trying to get an easement because they have declared that nobody’s going to get on it.
But the district court did not credit this testimony. The district court noted that a quit claim deed does not “guarantee any title and it’s taken subject to all easements that are in place.” In its findings, the court failed to even address this argument. Because of the lack of evidence suggesting a problem with the easement, the district court did not abuse its discretion in adopting respondent’s witness’s valuation for the 40-acre parcel.
District courts have broad discretion over the division of marital property, and we will not disturb the division on appeal absent a clear abuse of discretion.
Chamberlain v. Chamberlain, 615 N.W.2d 405, 412-13 (Minn. App. 2000) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Oct. 25, 2000). For this court to conclude the district court abused its discretion, the district court’s findings must be “against logic and the facts on [the] record.” Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984) (citation omitted).
On appeal, this court will
[a]ffirm the [district] court’s division of property if it had an acceptable basis in fact and principle even though this court may have taken a different approach.
Servin v. Servin, 345 N.W.2d 754, 758 (Minn. 1984) (citations omitted).
Appellant contends that the district court erred by dividing the property so unequally that respondent received property worth twice as much as appellant. We disagree. Upon dissolution, the district court is required to make a “just and equitable” division of the parties’ marital property. Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1 (2000). The district court seems to have considered respondent’s substantial ($500,000) inheritance into the distribution of marital assets. The district court stated “a vast majority of the assets that the parties acquired during the course of their marriage were purchased from funds inherited by the [respondent.]” The district court also noted that since 1990, almost all of the improvements on the home were paid for through respondent’s inheritance. The district court specifically concluded:
The Court took into consideration the fact that the homestead, household goods and personal property were acquired as a result of [respondent’s] inheritance. Therefore, although there was an uneven distribution of assets, it is fair and equitable under the circumstances.
Because the district court had a reason for the inequality of the division of marital property, and the record supports that reason, we find that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dividing the property.
* The Honorable Daniel F. Foley, one of the founding members of this court, who continued to serve by appointment order from the supreme court after his retirement, fully participated in the consideration of this appeal. Due to Judge Foley’s untimely death before the filing of the opinion, Judge Halbrooks has been assigned as a substitute, and now joins the panel in issuing this decision.