This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






Raymond L. Brown, et al.,





City of Waite Park,



Filed March 1, 2005


Halbrooks, Judge



Stearns County District Court

File No. CX-01-3457


Robert D. Stoneburner, Stoneburner Law Offices, 100 Washburne Avenue, P.O. Box 202, Paynesville, MN 56362 (for respondents)


Gordon H. Hansmeier, Laurel Pugh, Rajkowski Hansmeier Ltd., 11 7th Avenue North, P.O. Box 1433, St. Cloud, MN 56302-1433 (for appellant)



            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant city challenges the district court’s verdict and judgment in favor of respondents awarding damages for a taking, arguing that (1) the evidence shows that respondents never owned the land they allege was taken for the road, that the city did not previously condemn land as alleged by respondents, that the right-of-way for the road did not occupy land in question, and that the district court misunderstood the testimony of the city’s witness on the road-improvement question; (2) respondents’ claim is untimely under the dedication time limits for roads and streets in Minn. Stat. § 160.05 (2000); and (3) because respondents sold their interest in the land in question, respondents lack standing to proceed.  Respondents filed a notice of review, arguing that the court erred in its preliminary determination of the extent of the alleged taking by appellant city.  We conclude that respondents owned the land in question and have standing.  But because we also conclude that their claim is time-barred, we reverse.  We do not reach the issue of the extent of the alleged taking.


            This dispute concerns property abutting Second Avenue South, previously County Road 135, in the City of Waite Park.  Appellant City of Waite Park (the city) challenges the district court’s verdict and judgment in favor of respondents Raymond and Ruth Brown (the Browns), which held that the Browns are entitled to compensation from the city for taking this land.  The Browns acquired part of the land in 1982 and the remainder in 1986.  The quitclaim deeds transferring the property to the Browns note that the eastern boundary of each parcel is the “westerly right-of-way line” of then County Road 135.  In 1993, the city expanded Second Avenue South from two to four lanes.  The parties disagree regarding whether this expansion occurred within the preexisting right-of-way or whether the city has taken a portion of the Browns’ property. 

            On August 10, 2000, the Browns conveyed the property in question, less the allegedly “taken” parcel, to Great River Federal Credit Union (Great River) by warranty deed.  On the same date, the Browns executed a quitclaim deed for the disputed parcel in favor of Great River.  The record contains no evidence that this quitclaim deed has been recorded, and the Browns assert that they and Great River “expressly agreed that [the quitclaim deed] be held in escrow (not recorded), allowing the Browns time to initiate suit and pursue pending claims to judgment.”  A notice of lis pendens was recorded on August 9, 2001. 

There is no evidence in the record that the city ever condemned or otherwise purchased any of the Browns’ property in relation to the expansion of Second Avenue South.[1]  The Browns made no claim against the city prior to the filing of the present suit on July 10, 2001.  After a bench trial, the district court found in favor of the Browns.  This appeal follows.[2] 


            “The standard of review on appeal from a civil judgment is whether the evidence sustains the findings and whether the findings support the conclusions.”  Minneapolis Pub. Hous. Auth. v. Greene, 463 N.W.2d 558, 560 (Minn. App. 1990).  “Findings of fact, whether based on oral or documentary evidence, shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.  In applying Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01, “we view the record in the light most favorable to the judgment of the district court.”  Rogers v. Moore, 603 N.W.2d 650, 656 (Minn. 1999).  This court will not reverse the district court merely because we view the evidence differently.  Id.; see Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 474 (Minn. App. 2000) (stating “[t]hat the record might support findings other than those made by the [district] court does not show that the . . . findings are defective”).  Rather, we will reverse the district court’s findings of fact only if those findings are clearly erroneous or “manifestly contrary to the weight of the evidence or not reasonably supported by the evidence as a whole.”  Rogers, 603 N.W.2d at 656 (quotation omitted).  On purely legal issues, however, this court is not bound by and need not give deference to the district court’s decision.  Modrow v. JP Foodservice, Inc., 656 N.W.2d 389, 393 (Minn. 2003).

I.          Ownership of the Parcel of Land

The city contends that the district court erred in finding that the Browns owned the parcel of land in question, arguing that any expansion of Second Avenue South occurred within the preexisting right-of-way.  The district court noted that at the time former County Road 135 was transferred from Stearns County to the city, the city’s easement was limited to that already established.  The district court further observed that the easement as established was limited to the portion of the roadway actually used[3] and that the deed established the eastern border of the property as “the westerly right-of-way line of County Aid Road No. 135, as now constructed and traveled.”  Although the city later changed the designation of the easement from actual use to 66 feet, the district court found that no legal action was ever taken to properly establish this enlarged easement.   

The district court then looked to survey maps, which showed an “undisturbed centerline” for Second Avenue South.  Although actual usage of the roadway prior to expansion was difficult to ascertain, the court heard substantial testimony on the issue and noted that visual evidence appeared to show that some of what had been the Browns’ property was, after the expansion, sidewalk and curb.  Because there is evidence to reasonably support the conclusion that the Browns owned at least a portion of the parcel in question, the court did not clearly err in so finding.

II.        Standing

The city also argues that the district court erred in finding that the Browns had standing to pursue their claim despite the fact that they sold the property in question prior to filing this suit.[4]  An individual has standing to maintain a suit if that person can “show[] an injury to some interest, economic or otherwise, which differs from injury to the interests of other citizens generally.”  Vern Reynolds Constr. Co. v. City of Champlin, 539 N.W.2d 614, 617 (Minn. App. 1995) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Dec. 20, 1995).  When a constitutional “taking” occurs, a right to compensation vests in the owner of the property.  Brooks Inv. Co. v. City of Bloomington, 305 Minn. 305, 315, 232 N.W.2d 911, 918 (1975).  “This right has the status of property, is personal to the owner, and does not run with the land if he should subsequently transfer [the land] without an assignment of such right.”  Id.  In other words, the right to compensation does not pass from the original owner upon the sale of the land without a separate transfer of that right.  Id.

“In order to transfer title, a deed must be delivered.  The essential elements of delivery are surrender of control by the grantor and intent to convey title. . . . [T]he grantor must . . . show a present, unconditional intention to part with ownership.”  In re Estate of Savich, 671 N.W.2d 746, 750 (Minn. App. 2003) (citations omitted).  Although the Browns executed a quitclaim deed, there is no evidence that the deed was recorded.  More importantly, the Browns assert that they had an express agreement with Great River not to record the deed specifically to allow them to “initiate suit and pursue pending claims.”  This indicates that there was not a “present, unconditional intention” to transfer the right to compensation to Great River.  Consequently, the Browns retained this right and thus have standing to pursue this claim. 

III.       Statute of Limitations

The city argues that the district court erred in holding that the Browns’ claim is not barred by the six-year limitation period on claims set forth in Minn. Stat. § 160.05 (2000).  This statute provides, in relevant part:

When any road or portion of a road has been used and kept in repair and worked for at least six years continuously as a public highway by a road authority, it shall be deemed dedicated to the public to the width of the actual use and be and remain, until lawfully vacated, a public highway whether it has ever been established as a public highway or not. 


Minn. Stat. § 160.05, subd. 1.  “The construction and applicability of a statute of limitations is a question of law, reviewed de novo.”  Allen v. Hennepin County, 680 N.W.2d 560, 563 (Minn. App. 2004), review denied (Minn. Aug. 17, 2004).

Here, the district court noted that “there is no dispute [that] six years had passed between the 1993 expansion of the road and [the Browns’] claim to the property.”[5]  Nonetheless, the district court held that their claim is not time-barred, holding that the six-year limitation period found in section 160.05 conflicted with the 15-year statute of limitations set forth in Minn. Stat. § 541.02 (2000) and Beer v. Minn. Power & Light Co., 400 N.W.2d 732, 736 (Minn. 1987).  But such a conflict does not actually exist.[6]

Although the 15-year statute of limitations imposed by Minn. Stat. § 541.02 “is applicable in cases in which there has been an actual taking of property,” Beer, 400 N.W.2d at 736, such a limitations period is inapplicable here because no taking has occurred.  The supreme court has noted that

[s]ection 160.05, subd. 1, provides no method by which government can [t]ake property.  The statute, rather, provides a substitute for the common-law creation of highways by prescription or adverse use.  During the running of the six-year statute, the township and the public are adverse users and, at any time during that period, the landowner may seek damages for trespass, he may bar users from the property, or he may force the township, if it wishes to continue to use his property, to condemn it and pay compensation.  After six years have passed, however, he is estopped from asserting those rights.  The township and the public acquire rights not because they take them, but because the landowner forfeits them by failing to act within the prescribed period.


Moreover, so long as a reasonable time and method exist for obtaining compensation or other appropriate relief—and this is supplied by the six-year term—an affected property owner has no complaint if his request for relief is held barred by long acquiescence and laches or by the running of a statute of limitations.


Shinneman v. Arago Township, 288 N.W.2d 239, 243-44 (Minn. 1980) (citation omitted) (second emphasis added).  The district court reasoned that because section 160.05 “does not specifically address the issue of compensation for [a] taking[,]” the six-year limitations period barred the Browns from seeking possession of the property, but not from seeking compensation under an inverse-condemnation action.  But as Shinneman makes clear, the creation of highways pursuant to section 160.05 does not involve a taking.  288 N.W.2d at 243-44.  Accordingly, after six years, landowners are estopped from asserting property rights, including the right to compensation.  Id.  Thus, the district court erred in holding that the Browns’ claim is not time-barred by Minn. Stat. § 160.05.

            Because we conclude the Brown’s claim is untimely, we do not reach the issue of the extent of the land forfeited.


[1] In 1993, the city purchased from the Browns, for improvements to First Street South, a strip of land running along the north side of the Browns’ property as well as a “triangle” of land abutting the intersection of First Street South and Second Avenue South. 

[2] The verdict, order, and order for judgment was filed on February 17, 2004, but was not entered by the court administrator.  The city filed a notice of appeal on April 8.  On April 23, this court issued an order, noting that the district court judgment had not been entered and requiring such entry.  The district court’s order for judgment was subsequently entered on May 17 pursuant to an administrative addendum from the court administrator.  This appeal is from the May 17 entry of judgment.

[3] County Road 135 was designated as a county highway pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 160.02, subd. 4 (now subd. 17).  Although county highways created after July 1, 1957, are to “be at least four rods [66 feet] wide,” Minn. Stat. § 160.04 (2002), County Road 135 existed prior to this date.  Accordingly, the district court noted that the existing right-of-way was the portion of the roadway actually used. 

[4] The Browns contend that the city “did not assert a ‘standing defense’ at trial”; thus, the issue is not properly before this court.  But the record demonstrates that the city argued this issue to the district court.  Although the district court did not explicitly rule on the question of standing, it implicitly held in favor of the Browns by allowing them to pursue the suit.  Accordingly, this court may consider the issue on appeal.

[5] The Browns do not challenge the finding that more than six years passed between the expansion and the filing of this action.

[6] We note that even if a conflict did exist, the six-year statute of limitations would apply.  As a matter of statutory interpretation, when two laws conflict, the more recent and more specific prevails.  See Minn. Stat. § 645.26, subds. 1, 4 (2004).  Minn. Stat. § 541.02, and its statutory predecessors, predate the state of Minnesota, having existed since the territorial period.  See Minn. Rev. Stat. (Terr.) ch. 70, § 4.  Minn. Stat. § 160.05 and its predecessors are slightly more recent.  See 1877 Minn. Laws ch. 50, § 1 (codified as amended at Minn. Gen. Stat. ch. 13, § 47 (1878)).  Because section 160.05 is both more recent and more specific, its limitations period would apply in this case.