This opinion will be unpublished and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
Filed February 1, 2005
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
James A. Wilson, Johnson, Berens & Wilson, 717 South State Street, suite 200, Post Office Box 271, Fairmont, MN 56031 (attorney respondent pro se)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
Appellant Debra J. Teuchert, the guardian of Milda Ziemann and conservator of her estate, challenges the district court's order denying her motion to implead Ziemann's daughter and son-in-law and granting respondent James A. Wilson's motion to allow his claim against the conservatorship for attorney fees and expenses he incurred in representing Ziemann. We affirm.
Ziemann was born on June 6, 1908. She has two daughters, Eunice Eggen and Crystal Ziemann. Teuchert's father is Ziemann's nephew. Eggen, age 70, resides in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin with her husband Merle Eggen. Crystal Ziemann, age 55, is single and lives in Texas.
In April 2003, Ziemann revoked all prior powers of attorney and in a 30-page document granted Eggen general durable power of attorney. Teuchert, believing that Ziemann signed the 30-page document under duress and without fully understanding what powers the document gave to Eggen, filed a petition in the district court to appoint a conservator for Ziemann. Ziemann, through Wilson, contested the appointment.
At the initial hearing on the petition, Wilson stated that he appeared "on behalf of the daughter, Eunice Eggen and [he is] also the attorney-in-fact" for Ziemann. Following the hearing, the district court issued a temporary order granting Wilson exclusive control over Ziemann's finances.
In October 2003, the district court issued its decision, finding Ziemann "demonstrated behavioral deficits evidencing an inability to meet her needs for medical care, nutrition, clothing, safety, and shelter, and to manage her estate." The district court concluded Ziemann was in need of a guardian of her person and conservator of her estate. The court concluded Teuchert was "the most suitable and best qualified among those available" and appointed her to fill the positions.
Two months later, Wilson moved the district court for an order to allow his claim against the conservatorship for attorney fees and expenses he incurred in representing Ziemann and for an award of his fees and expenses for bringing the motion to compel payment. Teuchert moved the district court to allow her to implead the Eggens and to require Wilson to "adequately prove up his claim for attorneys fees." The district court granted Wilson's motion to allow his claim for attorney fees and expenses in the amount of $8,283 but denied Teuchert's motion to implead the Eggens and denied Wilson's motion for his cost of bringing the motion.
1. Teuchert argues that the district court erred in denying her motion to implead the Eggens. Although granting a motion to implead parties under Minn. R. Civ. P. 14.01 may be in the interest of judicial economy, the decision to deny the joinder of additional parties rests in the sound discretion of the district court. Grothe v. Shaffer, 305 Minn. 17, 25, 232 N.W.2d 227, 233 (1975). Unless a person is "necessary' under Minn. R. Civ. P. 19.02, there is no substantive right to join a third party. Minn. R. Civ. P. 19.01 (stating if complete relief cannot be accorded among parties in a third-party's absence, "court shall order that person to be made a party"); Grothe, 305 Minn. at 25, 232 N.W.2d at 233 (stating Minn. R. Civ. P. 14.01 "merely permits joinder; it does not necessarily create a substantive right to implead another party").
Teuchert has never argued that the Eggens were a "necessary" party under Minn. R. Civ. P. 19.01. The district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to allow Teuchert to implead the Eggens. We note, however, the district court did not "refuse to permit the filing of a claim" as Teuchert suggests. The court's order did not bar any claim Ziemann may have against the Eggens.
2. Teuchert argues the district court erred in ordering Ziemann's estate to pay Wilson's claim because of conflict of interests, undue influences, and the lack of a written retainer agreement. The determination of the existence and the terms of a contract, when in dispute, are questions of fact. Morrisette v. Harrison Int'l Corp., 486 N.W.2d 424, 427 (Minn. 1992). This court will not disturb the district court's findings of fact if there is reasonable evidence to support the findings. Rogers v. Moore, 603 N.W.2d 650, 656 (Minn. 1999).
Here, the district court found Wilson had a valid claim against Ziemann for legal fees Wilson incurred representing Ziemann and allowed the claim against the conservatorship. Wilson submitted an itemized billing statement showing the work he performed on behalf of Ziemann. Wilson stated during the hearing on his claim that Ziemann and the Eggens initially contacted him on April 16, 2003 and asked him to represent Ziemann "on her portion of the real estate sale" and that his representation of Ziemann "covered three phases, the real estate phase, the phase concerning the conservatorship and then following the hearing in June . . . according to the order of the Court." The district court's finding that Ziemann owed Wilson $8,283 for legal fees has reasonable support in the record.
Teuchert's arguments regarding why the district court erred in ordering Ziemann's estate to pay Wilson's claim are unpersuasive. A contract for legal services need not be in writing. See Pine Island Farmers Coop v. Erstad & Riemer, P.A., 649 N.W.2d 444, 448 (Minn. 2002) (stating contract for legal services can be "express or implied"). Nor on the record before us can we conclude that the interests of Eunice Eggen and Ziemann were so "directly adverse" that the district court erred in allowing Wilson's claim for the legal services he provided to Ziemann. See Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.7(a) (stating lawyer may be disqualified from representing multiple clients when clients' interests are "directly adverse"); id. at 1985 comm. cmt. ("Resolving questions of conflict of interest is primarily the responsibility of the lawyer undertaking the representation"); see also Holloway v. Arkansas, 435 U.S. 475, 489-90, 98 S. Ct. 1173, 1181 (1978) (noting attorney is in best position professionally and ethically to determine when conflict of interest exists).
We deem any issue regarding Ziemann's capacity to enter into a contract with Wilson to be waived because the issue was never presented to the district court. See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (stating this court need not address matters not argued and considered in district court).