This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Texas Foods, Inc.,
Raymond L. Jedneak,
R.E. Fritz, Inc., et al.,
Filed April 1, 2003
Anoka County District Court
File No. C3012626
David J. Van House, Joel A. Hilgendorf, Van House & Associates, P.A., 407 Edina Executive Plaza, 5200 Willson Road, Edina, MN 55424 (for appellant)
Jonathan C. Miesen, Lindquist & Vennum, P.L.L.P., 4200 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.*
In this appeal from summary judgment, appellant Raymond Jedneak argues that the district court erred by holding that his lien against the assets of Texas Foods, Inc. was satisfied and thus no longer superior to a lien held by respondents, R. E. Fritz, Inc. and Pederson, Inc. Appellant further argues that the district court erred by concluding that an alleged oral modification of the contract between the parties was barred by the parol evidence rule. Because appellant failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence the existence of a genuine issue of material fact with regard to these issues and because the district court correctly applied the law, we affirm.
1. Lien Priority
Summary judgment is properly granted when “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and [when] either party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03. “The [non-moving] party may not rest upon mere averments or denials [in his] pleading but must present specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.” Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.05. “Speculation, general assertions, and promises to produce evidence at trial are not sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact for trial.” Nicollet Restoration, Inc. v. City of St. Paul, 533 N.W.2d 845, 848 (Minn. 1995) (citations omitted).
“The district court’s function on a motion for summary judgment is not to decide issues of fact, but solely to determine whether genuine factual issues exist.” DLH, Inc. v. Russ, 566 N.W.2d 60, 70 (Minn. 1997) (citations omitted). The court is “not required to ignore its conclusion that a particular piece of evidence may have no probative value, such that reasonable persons could not draw different conclusions from the evidence presented.” Id.
The specific issue here is whether the district court erred in concluding that appellant’s lien against Texas Foods, which had priority over respondents’ lien, was satisfied. Respondents served interrogatories and a request for production of documents seeking records of all loans made by appellant to Texas Foods or any entity owned by appellant’s son, Kenneth Jedneak, and records of all payments received by appellant from Texas Foods or any entity owned by Kenneth Jedneak. In response to these requests, appellant produced corporate documents evidencing a single loan and a schedule of payments that were made to pay off that loan. The 2000 corporate tax return also reports a loan in a corresponding amount that was satisfied.
Although appellant was given ample opportunity to establish that a prior lien existed, he only offered documentation of a satisfied loan. Respondents’ interrogatories and request for documents plainly sought information relating to any loans made to or payments received from Texas Foods, as well as any other entity owned wholly or in part by Kenneth Jedneak. The scope of these discovery requests was not confusing, and appellant’s responses were signed under oath. Nevertheless, the affidavits offered by appellant in opposition to summary judgment contradicted his earlier responses to discovery. Although a party may correct an earlier statement made in confusion or by mistake, a self-serving affidavit that contradicts a prior sworn statement is insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact. Hoover v. Norwest Private Mortgage Banking, 632 N.W.2d 534, 541 n.4 (Minn. 2001); Oreck v. Harvey Homes, Inc., 602 N.W.2d 424, 429 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. Jan. 25, 2000).
Even considered in the light most favorable to appellant, the evidence before the district court established that appellant’s loan to Texas Foods had been paid off or satisfied. The only evidence to the contrary consists of self-serving affidavits that directly contradict earlier sworn statements. The district court thus did not err in concluding that appellant’s loan was satisfied and that any lien appellant held against Texas Foods was discharged.
2. Parol Evidence Rule
Appellant alleges that the district court erred by concluding that the parol evidence rulebarred modification of the parties’ written contract. Appellant asserts that respondents’ attorney represented that respondents’ $30,000 lien against Texas Foods would never have to be paid and was included in the parties’ contract for the sole purpose of satisfying respondents’ creditors.
The parol evidence rule bars admission of evidence of oral negotiations occurring before or contemporaneously with the signing of a fully integrated, unambiguous contract. Apple Valley Red-E-Mix, Inc. v. Mills-Winfield Eng’g Sales, Inc., 436 N.W.2d 121, 123-34 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. Apr. 26, 1989). The parol evidence rule does not exclude evidence of subsequent oral modifications of a written contract. LaPanta v. Heidelberger, 392 N.W.2d 254, 258-59 (Minn. App. 1986).
Appellant, on behalf of Texas Foods, agreed by written contract to assume $100,000 of debt owed to respondents by Kenneth Jedneak’s business entities, and granted respondents a security interest in that amount in the assets of Texas Foods. According to the contract, the lien would be released on payment of $30,000 by March 31, 2001. Appellant testified by deposition, however, that respondents’ attorney assured him before and contemporaneously with the signing of the contract that the $30,000 would never have to be paid. Kenneth Jedneak also testified by deposition that these assurances were made at the time of the contract negotiations and signing. Nevertheless, in opposition to respondents’ summary judgment motion, appellant and his son submitted affidavits in which they stated that the assurances were made after the contract was signed. Respondents’ attorney denied telling appellant that the payment would never have to be made.
Once again, appellant attempts to rely on self-serving affidavits that directly contradict prior sworn testimony. See Oreck, 602 N.W.2d at 429. To modify a contract with parol evidence of subsequent conversations, the evidence “must be clear and convincing to justify setting aside a written contract and holding it as abandoned or substituted by a subsequent parol contract at variance with its terms.” Norwest Bank of Minn., N.A. v. Midwestern Mach. Co., 481 N.W.2d 875, 881 (Minn. App. 1992) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. May 15, 1992). Where, as here, a party attempts to contradict earlier sworn testimony without justification or explanation, the standard of clear and convincing evidence is not satisfied.
We therefore affirm the grant of summary judgment to respondents.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.