This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
All Parks Alliance for Change,
Uniprop Manufactured Housing Communities Income Fund,
d/b/a Ardmor Village,
Filed March 14, 2006
Dakota County District Court
File No. C4-04-6504
Kay Nord Hunt, Barry A. O’Neil, Valerie Sims, Lommen, Nelson, Cole & Stageberg, P.A., 2000 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)
John F. Bonner, III, Thomas F. DeVincke, Bonner & Borhart LLP, 1950 U.S. Bank Plaza, 220 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Uniprop Manufactured Housing Communities Income Fund challenges the district court’s attorney-fee award, arguing that it was not justified because respondent did not prevail at trial. By notice of review, respondent All Parks Alliance for Change argues that the district court erroneously reduced its attorney-fee award and that the limits the district court placed on respondent’s access to leaflet, canvass, and/or organize within appellant’s manufactured park were unreasonable. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
The district court awarded
respondent $31,232.60 in attorney fees pursuant to
A district court is required
to order costs for a prevailing party and has discretion to determine which
party, if any, qualifies as a prevailing party.
Here, appellant owned and
The district court rendered its decision primarily in respondent’s favor, finding that appellant’s limitations were unreasonable under Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 and that the statute was “not unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.” The district court enjoined appellant from preventing or interfering with respondent’s peaceful leafleting, canvassing, and/or organizing residents from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. from May through August. The court also held that with certain limitations appellant could enforce the no-contact list provision. Of the $45,248.91 that respondent claimed, the court found that respondent was entitled to attorney fees, costs and disbursements totaling $31,232.60.
Appellant argues that
respondent did not prevail because the litigation was “entirely about” the
no-contact list and appellant prevailed on that issue. We disagree.
The record indicates that the parties litigated other issues at trial, including
the constitutionality of Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 and the hours respondent was
allowed access to
Appellant also claims that it offered respondent settlement proposals similar to, if not better than, the district court’s eventual holding. But the district court explicitly declined to consider one of the settlement proposals because the parties failed to put it in writing and the attorneys could not agree that it even existed. Moreover, we need not determine whether appellant’s final proposal was less favorable to respondent than the district court’s order. The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that when a verdict is rendered in a party’s favor, that party is the “prevailing party” even where the judgment entered was less than a rejected settlement offer. Borchert, 581 N.W.2d at 839. Because the district court’s verdict was rendered in respondent’s favor, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding respondent the prevailing party at trial.
Respondent challenges the
amount of the attorney-fee award, arguing that the district court should not
have reduced its requested amount. The
reasonable value of counsel’s work is a question of fact, and we must uphold
the district court’s findings on that issue unless they are clearly
erroneous. Amerman v. Lakeland Dev.
The attorney general is
authorized to investigate and enforce violations of unfair and unlawful
business and commerce practices. Minn.
Stat. § 8.31, subd. 1 (2004). Under
Minnesota’s private-attorney-general statute, an individual injured by a
violation of this law may also “bring a civil action and recover damages,
together with costs and disbursements, including costs of investigation and
reasonable attorney’s fees . . . .”
Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subd. 3a (2004).
Reasonable attorney fees are available under Minn. Stat. § 8.31,
subd. 3a, to private citizens who can demonstrate that their cause of action
benefits the public. Ly v. Nystrom, 615 N.W.2d 302, 314 (
The Minnesota Supreme Court discussed the factors that should be considered when awarding attorney fees pursuant to statute:
Absent any statutory limitations, allowances should be made with due regard for all relevant circumstances, including the time and labor required; the nature and difficulty of the responsibility assumed; the amount involved and the results obtained; the fees customarily charged for similar legal services; the experience, reputation, and ability of counsel; and the fee arrangement existing between counsel and the client.
State by Head v. Paulson, 290
Here, the district court
awarded respondent attorney fees pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subds. 1,
3a. The district court applied the Paulson factors, finding that “[f]or the
most part, the hours worked appear to be reasonable.” Calculating the specific amount of
respondent’s award, the court subtracted $1,400 for an attorney’s unnecessary
attendance at trial and awarded respondent two-thirds of its claimed attorney
fees. The court reasoned that respondent
was not entitled to the full award because respondent had not entirely reached
its desired outcome. Although respondent
successfully extended the hours it was allowed to canvass
Respondent argues that
because its claim benefited the public, the district court erred in reducing
its attorney-fee award. We disagree.
Respondent also argues that the district court erred by reducing its award by $1,400, which represented an attorney’s unnecessary attendance at trial. Respondent contends that the attorney in question “was actively involved in the case from start to finish” and conducted cross-examination of two witnesses at the trial. But we cannot say the district court’s finding that one attorney could have sufficiently conducted the cross-examination is clearly erroneous. Because the district court did not clearly err by reducing respondent’s award by $1,400 and by awarding it two-thirds of its requested fees, we affirm the district court’s attorney-fee award of $31,232.60.
Respondent also challenges the merits of the district court’s order, arguing that the district court erred by restricting respondent’s canvassing and leafleting activities to daylight hours Monday through Saturday and by upholding appellant’s no-contact list. We disagree.
No park owner shall prohibit or adopt any rule prohibiting residents or other persons from peacefully organizing, assembling, canvassing, leafletting or otherwise exercising within the park their right of free expression for noncommercial purposes. A park owner may adopt and enforce rules that set reasonable limits as to time, place and manner.
Respondent asserts that Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 incorporates First Amendment principles governing reasonable speech restrictions. Respondent claims that First Amendment jurisprudence therefore applies to determine the reasonableness of the community rules set by appellant here. We disagree.
“The first amendment applies
only to state action and protected speech.
Where a court is only enforcing the right of a private party, that is
not clearly state action.” Smith v. Condux Int’l, Inc., 466 N.W.2d
22, 26 (Minn. App. 1991) (citing Cherne
Indus. v. Grounds & Assocs., 278 N.W.2d 81, 94 n.10 (
The issue here is not
constitutional but statutory.
The district court expressly declined to extend respondent’s permissible canvassing hours beyond nightfall because later visits would be more likely to annoy residents and because canvassing after dark could interfere with appellant’s interest in monitoring the premises and providing a safe environment for its residents after dark. The court also declined to extend respondent’s access to Sundays, reasoning that the other permissible hours should provide respondent sufficient opportunity to contact most residents. The district court held that the no-contact provision of appellant’s new rule was reasonable because “[p]eople should have the right to be left alone.”
alternative means by which appellant could protect its residents’ rights, but
Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 does not require that limitations on noncommercial speech
in manufactured home parks be the least restrictive limitations available. Instead, Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 requires
reasonableness. We conclude that the
limits the district court imposed on respondent’s access to