This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Barbara Lindner,





Michael Foy,



Filed June 28, 2005

Forsberg, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. HC 040903901


Barbara Lindner, 1400 Meadow View Drive, Princeton, MN 55371 (pro se respondent)


Richard S. Eskola, 3989 Central Avenue Northeast, Suite 600, Columbia Heights, MN 55421 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant, a landlord, challenges the district court’s determination that respondent, his former tenant, was locked out of the premises in violation of Minn. Stat. § 504B.375 (2004), and entitled to a damages award.  Because we see no abuse of discretion in the findings of fact regarding the lockout and because the damage award is not palpably contrary to the evidence, we affirm.


            Respondent Barbara Lindner leased a house and its attached garage from appellant Michael Foy under a written lease agreement running from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004.  The lease converted to a monthly lease after June 30, 2004, and respondent paid rent for the month of July 2004.

            Respondent vacated the premises on August 6, 2004.  Around August 10, after a dispute with appellant, she paid the rent for August.  Respondent left some items of sentimental value but minimal economic value in the garage, and, with appellant’s knowledge, kept a garage door opener.  She also kept a key to the house without appellant’s knowledge.

            On August 25, respondent’s son went to the premises to retrieve respondent’s property from the garage.  Neither the key nor the garage door opener worked, so he could not get in.  Respondent notified appellant, who arranged to have a friend meet respondent’s son at the premises on August 30.

            They met as planned, and respondent’s garage door opener worked.  But her son did not retrieve the property because he did not have an appropriate vehicle to transport it.  He left to get another vehicle, and appellant’s friend left the premises.  When respondent’s son returned about an hour and a half later, the garage door opener again did not work, so he could not retrieve the property.             

            Respondent brought this action, arguing that a lockout had occurred.  The district court determined that she had been locked out of the property from August 25 to August 31 and awarded her rent for that period, $308.70, plus costs.  Appellant challenges the finding that there was a lockout and the award of damages.[1] 


            1.         Unlawful Exclusion

            The district court concluded that respondent “has established by a preponderance of the evidence that she was excluded from the subject premises unlawfully by [appellant] or someone acting under his direction or control.”  The conclusion was based on findings that “[respondent] had paid rent for the month of August, 2004, and had not surrendered or abandoned her right of access to the premises.”  This court will not disturb the district court’s findings if there is reasonable evidence to support them.  Rogers v. Moore, 603 N.W.2d 650, 656 (Minn. 1999).

            Evidence supports the underlying findings.  The district court found that “it is undisputed that [respondent] paid August 2004 rent.”  Appellant testified that respondent paid him rent for August.  The district court found that on August 25 “the premises were secured by [appellant] or someone acting on his behalf in such a way that [respondent’s] son could not get access with the garage door opener or house key.”  Appellant testified that he had been in the house working on it for a total of “about 14 days” prior to August 25.  Respondent’s son testified that “[t]he garage door opener did not work.  We used the lock—our keys—the top was changed and the bottom lock was functional but the top was locked so we were unable to get in.”  A friend who had been with respondent’s son testified that “[h]e tried all his keys and the lock – the same lock and he tried the garage door opener.  I tried the garage door opener and we went around the house and tried both doors and could not get in.”  Thus, the findings that respondent had paid rent for the month of August and did not have access to the property on August 25 are well supported. 

            Appellant argues that respondent did have access to the residence on August 30, when the garage door opener worked initially.  But it did not work 90 minutes later, when respondent’s son tried it again, so respondent was also denied access on that day. 

            Appellant testified that he did not know why the garage door opener did not work and that he had not altered the locks.  But appellate courts do not reconcile conflicting evidence; if reasonable evidence supports the trial court’s findings of fact, those findings will not be disturbed on appeal.  Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W. 2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999).  Notwithstanding appellant’s testimony to the contrary, the district court’s findings are supported by reasonable evidence.

            2.         Damages

            This court will set aside a damage award only if it is “manifestly and palpably contrary to the evidence.”  Levienn v. Metro. Transit Comm’n, 297 N.W. 2d 272, 273 (Minn. 1980).  In reviewing a damage award, this court must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict.  Rayford v. Metro. Transit Comm’n, 379 N.W. 2d 161, 165 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Feb. 14, 1986). 

            The district court awarded respondent damages of the rent for six days or $308.70.[2]  Appellant argues that, even if respondent was denied access, “the only thing [she] was arguably denied was the opportunity to remove her own junk from the premises.  The garbage had a de minimis value.”  But appellant’s argument misses the point.  The value of respondent’s property is irrelevant to her right to have access to the premises, for any reason or no reason, during the period for which she had paid rent.  Awarding respondent six days’ rent for the six days she was denied access was not manifestly and palpably contrary to the evidence.

            The finding that respondent was denied access is well supported, and the damage award is not contrary to the evidence.


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

[1] Respondent has not participated in this appeal.

[2] The district court declined to award respondent:  (1) the cost of the trailer her son rented to remove her property, because the trailer rental would have been necessary regardless of appellant’s conduct; (2) treble damages and attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 504B.231 (2004) because it found that respondent had not proved that appellant acted in bad faith; and (3) punitive damages under Minn. Stat. § 504B.271, subd. 2 (2004), because it found that appellant complied with the only written demand made on him.