This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






Lois E. Clausen,





DeLyle James Jenkins,



Filed March 25, 2003


Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge


Aitkin County District Court

File No. CX00434



Heinrich A. Brucker, Ryan, Ryan & Brucker, 201 Minnesota Avenue North, P.O. Box 388, Aitkin, MN 56431 (for respondent)


Shanon M. Gregor, Nilles, Hansen & Davies, Ltd., 1401 South 8th Street, P.O. Box 677, Moorhead, MN 56561 (for appellant)


Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N



Appellant and respondent are former cohabitants now involved in a property dispute.  Appellant claims that he owns certain personal property that he purchased after respondent transferred to him money or title, or both, allegedly under an oral agreement.  After a bench trial, the court concluded that appellant’s counterclaims are barred by Minnesota’s anti-palimony statutes, Minn. Stat. §§ 513.075, .076 (2002).  We affirm.


            Respondent Lois Clausen was the beneficiary of several life/accidental-death insurance policies, the benefits of which she received after her fiancé died in June 1998 in a car crash.[1]  After her fiancé’s death, Clausen met appellant DeLyle Jenkins sometime in the summer of 1998; and they began dating in the fall.  When they first met, Jenkins was living in Farmington and Clausen was living in Savage.  Clausen later sold her home in Savage and moved to Palisade, Minnesota.  Sometime around November 1998, Jenkins also moved to Palisade to live with Clausen. 

In December 1998, Clausen received two accidental-death insurance benefit checks totaling approximately $78,000 and endorsed them into Jenkins’s name, who then deposited the funds into his checking account.  Clausen also endorsed a $15,000 check, which she testified was intended as benefits for her deceased fiancé’s children, into Jenkins’s name.  Jenkins used this money to purchase equipment, such as John Deere machinery, which is included among disputed personal property.

Jenkins and Clausen differ in their versions of the reason Jenkins moved to Palisade, and the district court did not make a specific finding on the reason for his move.  Jenkins claims that Clausen promised to give him $100,000 if he would move in with her and forgo his Veterans Administration-funded photography schooling at Dakota Technical School.  Clausen claims that Jenkins offered to move in with her, “take care of her,” and start a business.  She claims she gave him money and put equipment titles into his name solely to protect the assets from creditors of her deceased fiancé.

The district court specifically found that the parties lived together and maintained a romantic relationship for one and one-half years.  The court also found that, of the property that is in dispute, Clausen owned some of the items before meeting Jenkins and before receiving the $78,000 in accidental-death insurance proceeds.  The court found that Clausen had received death-insurance proceeds and endorsed a total of approximately $93,000 in checks to Jenkins (approximately $78,000 was from the insurance proceeds and $15,000 was the check allegedly intended as death benefits to go to Clausen’s deceased fiancé’s children) and that Jenkins used a portion of the $93,000 to purchase the other disputed property items. 

The court found that the disputed property belongs to Clausen and that Jenkins encouraged Clausen to transfer the death-insurance proceeds into his name and to place the titles of the equipment in his name.  The court also found that Clausen transferred the money and titles to Jenkins to safeguard the items from creditors and that Jenkins should have known that all of the items were Clausen’s property, even though some of the items were titled in his name.

            The court concluded that Clausen is entitled to all right, title, and interest in the disputed personal property and that Jenkins’s counterclaims are barred by Minn. Stat. §§ 513.075, .076 (2002).  Jenkins now challenges the court’s conclusion that his claims are barred.


As a preliminary matter, we note Minnesota’s anti-palimony statutes.  Minn. Stat. §§ 513.075, .076 (2002).  These statutes require a written contract if unmarried, cohabitating, and intimate parties enter into an agreement.  Minn. Stat. § 513.075.  Without a written contract, the district court does not have jurisdiction to hear claims by such individuals.  Minn. Stat. § 513.076; Tourville v. Kowarsch, 365 N.W.2d 298, 299-300 (Minn. App. 1985).  But these statutes apply “only where the sole consideration for a contract between cohabiting parties is their ‘contemplation of sexual relations * * * out of wedlock.’”  In re Eriksen, 337 N.W.2d 671 674 (Minn. 1983) (quotations omitted).

            The statutes do not apply if the party claiming rights to property seeks only to preserve and protect his or her own property, “acquired for cash consideration wholly independent of any service contract related to cohabitation,” and the party is “not seek[ing] to assert any rights in the property of a cohabitant.”  Id. at 674.

            Jenkins argues that the statutes do not apply here because there was sufficient evidence presented at trial to show that living together in contemplation of sexual relations was not the sole consideration for the alleged oral agreement.  He argues that the evidence at trial supports his claim that Clausen repeatedly asked him to move to Palisade, that he repeatedly declined but stated that he would not consider moving for anything less than $100,000, and that Clausen promised to pay him this amount if he moved in with her.

But the “evidence” that Jenkins refers to is his own testimony regarding the reason he moved.  And his testimony conflicted with Clausen’s testimony that Jenkins promised to take care of her and that he moved of his own accord.  Accordingly, the outcome of this case rests on the district court’s determination of the credibility of the witnesses. 

We give due regard to the district court in judging the credibility of the witnesses at trial.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.  We will not set aside a district court’s findings of fact unless the findings are clearly erroneous and not supported by the evidence, and we view the record in the light most favorable to these findings.  Frauenshuh v. Giese, 599 N.W.2d 153, 156 (Minn. 1999). 

            In this case, the district court found that Clausen owned the disputed property and transferred money and title to the property into Jenkins’s name only to protect her assets from creditors.  Jenkins does not challenge that the money he used to purchase the property was the money Clausen received as accidental-death insurance proceeds.  Rather, Jenkins broadly claims that the court erroneously awarded much of the disputed property to Clausen and that the evidence does not support the findings.  But in light of the deference that we afford the district court as to witness-credibility determinations and in viewing the record in the light most favorable to the findings, we conclude that the record supports the court’s findings.  The version of the evidence the court believed was that Jenkins encouraged Clausen to transfer money and titles into his name, the items were purchased using Clausen’s insurance proceeds, Clausen entrusted Jenkins to safeguard the items, and Jenkins knew or should have known that the items were Clausen’s property.  Because the record supports the court’s findings that the property belonged to Clausen, Jenkins’s counterclaim seeks to assert rights in that property. 

On these facts, Jenkins’s counterclaim does not fall within the exception to the anti-palimony statutes that provide that a written contract is not required if the party claiming a right to property seeks only to preserve and protect his property.  See In re Eriksen, 337 N.W.2d at 673-74.  By applying the anti-palimony statutes, the court impliedly disbelieved Jenkins’s contention as to the consideration for his move and disbelieved anything that would fit Jenkins into an exception to the statutes.  Thus, even the application of the statutes depends on a credibility determination, an issue resolved in Clausen’s favor.


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


[1]  She received $100,000 in life-insurance benefits immediately after her fiancé’s death, but these benefits are not at issue in these proceedings; only the subsequent $78,000 in accidental-death benefits is involved.