This opinion will be unpublished and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
Nancy Ann Angerhofer,
Darrick Bradley Stai,
Filed September 17, 2002
Pope County District Court
File No. C300193
Harry A. Sieben, Jr., Jeffrey M. Montpetit, Sieben, Grose, Von Holtum & Carey, Ltd., 900 Midwest Plaza East, 800 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Mary Beth Mahler, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., 400 South First Street, Suite 600, P.O. Box 1008, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
Nancy Ann Angerhofer appeals from the district court’s dismissal of her personal injury action against respondent Darrick Bradley Stai. She argues that the court abused its discretion when it dismissed her action for failure to prosecute but never ordered the parties to trial, as required for a dismissal under Minn. R. Civ. P. 41.02(a) (involuntary dismissal for failure to prosecute or violation of court order). Because the district court dismissed this case for violation of court orders, not for failure to prosecute, and because the court did not abuse its discretion in doing so, we affirm.
A district court’s dismissal of a claim with prejudice is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. Firoved v. Gen. Motors Co., 277 Minn. 278, 283, 152 N.W.2d 364, 368 (1967). Such a dismissal is a severe remedy and should be granted only under exceptional circumstances. Id.
Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion in dismissing her case with prejudice because the matter had not yet been called for trial. As support for her position, she cites caselaw that holds that before a court can dismiss for failure to prosecute, “it must call the case for trial.” Minn. Humane Soc’y v. Minn. Federated Humane Societies, 611 N.W.2d 587, 590 (Minn. App. 2000). Appellant correctly points out that her case was stricken from the trial calendar on May 15, 2001, and was never rescheduled prior to dismissal.
Under Minn. R. Civ. P. 41.02(a), a court “may upon its own initiative, or upon motion of a party, and upon such notice as it may prescribe, dismiss an action or claim for failure to prosecute or to comply with these rules or any order of the court.” (Emphasis added.) Rule 41.02 is “designed to let the trial court manage its docket and eliminate delays and obstructionist tactics by use of the sanction of dismissal.” Lampert Lumber Co. v. Joyce, 405 N.W.2d 423, 425 (Minn. 1987).
The district court struck appellant’s case from the calendar at a pre-trial conference on May 15, 2001, after appellant requested a continuance, the second since her case had been filed. The court denied her request for a continuance, but indicated that it would dismiss the case without prejudice to give appellant six months to obtain counsel; appellant agreed to dismissal rather than proceed to trial pro se. The court’s May 15, 2001 order provided that appellant “may re-file a complaint * * * within six months (by Nov. 15, 2001)” but that “[t]he complaint will be deemed dismissed with prejudice after that date.”
Although appellant obtained new counsel in October 2001 and served respondent with a new complaint on November 3, 2001, she did not file her complaint with the district court by the November 15, 2001 deadline. The court administrator thus treated the complaint as “dismissed with prejudice as of November 15, 2001, since no new complaint had been filed.”
In denying appellant’s request for leave to re-file her complaint, the district court reasoned:
[Appellant] had over a year from the time of her first attorney’s withdrawal [in November 2000] to retain another attorney. The Court accommodated [appellant’s] request for a continuance in November of 2000 and then [in May 2001] again gave [appellant] another six months to retain counsel before the complaint was dismissed with prejudice in November of 2001. The Court has allowed every opportunity for [appellant’s] claim to be heard on its merits, but [appellant] has repeatedly waited until the eve of trial to request more time and now asks the court to allow scheduling of her case a third time after the November 15, 2001 deadline has passed. It is [appellant’s] burden to prosecute her case and comply with the orders of the Court, and she has failed to do so.
The May 15, 2001 Order clearly gives [appellant] the conditions under which her case would again be put on the Court’s calendar. The order was not ambiguous and was a carefully crafted compromise to reduce prejudice to any one party and to protect the interests of both parties. It was within the court’s discretion to design the order in such a way as to serve multiple purposes. The May 15, 2001 order eliminated further last minute changes in the Court’s docket, protected [appellant] from being forced to go to trial without counsel and reduced the length of time [respondent] was exposed to a claim he had already incurred expenses to defend before the dismissal.
Our reading of the court’s reasoning leads us to conclude that appellant’s complaint was dismissed due to her failure to comply with the court orders, not for failure to prosecute.
Although appellant served a new complaint within the deadline, she was required to re-file the complaint with the district court by the deadline or risk dismissal with prejudice. The conditions imposed by the court in its May 15, 2001 order were intended to insure that the matter would be placed back on the calendar within a set period of time. Because these conditions were reasonable, given the history of this case, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the case with prejudice due to appellant’s failure to comply with court orders. See Zuleski v. Pipella, 309 Minn. 585, 586-87, 245 N.W.2d 586, 587 (1976) (“decision to dismiss [under rule 41.02] necessarily depends upon the circumstances peculiar to each case, justice and equity to each party, and considered with reference to just, speedy, and inexpensive disposition of the case and the policy underlying the dismissal rules of preventing harassment and unreasonable delays in litigation”) (quotation omitted)).
Finally, appellant also argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction to prevent her from re-filing her complaint because the case had been dismissed without prejudice on May 15, 2001. This argument, however, ignores the fact that the court dismissed the case on May 15, 2001 at appellant’s request and that the court had the authority at that time to dismiss her action “upon such terms and conditions as the court deem[ed] proper.” Minn. R. Civ. P. 41.01(b) (voluntary dismissals). The court thus had the authority to impose conditions on the voluntary dismissal of appellant’s case, and the conditions imposed by the court, that appellant re-file her case within six months or it would be deemed dismissed with prejudice, were reasonable and proper given the circumstances of this case.
Because we affirm the dismissal of appellant’s case, we need not address respondent’s other arguments seeking dismissal of this appeal.