This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






All Parks Alliance for Change,





Uniprop Manufactured Housing Communities Income Fund,

d/b/a Ardmor Village,



Filed March 14, 2006


Kalitowski, Judge


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.



The district court awarded respondent $31,232.60 in attorney fees pursuant to Minnesota’s private-attorney-general statute, Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subd. 3a (2004).  Appellant argues that the attorney-fee award was improper because respondent was not the prevailing party at trial.  We disagree.

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.  Benigni v. County of St. Louis, 585 N.W.2d 51, 54-55 (Minn. 1998).  “In determining who qualifies as the prevailing party in an action, the general result should be considered, and inquiry made as to who has, in the view of the law, succeeded in the action.”  Luna v. Zeeb, 633 N.W.2d 540, 543 (Minn. App. 2001) (quotation omitted).  “The prevailing party in any action is one in whose favor the decision or verdict is rendered and judgment entered.”  Borchert v. Maloney, 581 N.W.2d 838, 840 (Minn. 1998). 

Here, appellant owned and operated Ardmor Village, a manufactured home community in Lakeville, Minnesota.  One of Ardmor Village’s community covenants prohibited peddling or soliciting anywhere within the community.  Respondent, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inform manufactured home park residents about their legal rights and protections, filed suit alleging that appellant’s rule violated Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 (2002).  Six months into the litigation, appellant adopted a new rule allowing noncommercial leafleting and canvassing on Ardmor Village premises between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  The new rule prohibited leafleting or canvassing residences listed on a “no-contact” list.  Respondent maintained that appellant’s new rule violated Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 by setting unreasonable limits as to the time, place, and manner in which respondent could canvas, leaflet, and/or organize within Ardmor Village.  Appellant argued that its limits were reasonable and that section 327C.13 was unconstitutional. 

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 Ardmor Village

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. Corp., 295 Minn. 536, 537, 203 N.W.2d 400, 400-01 (1973).

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 (Minn. 2000).  A violation of Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 is enforceable under the Minnesota private-attorney-general statute.  Minn. Stat. §§ 8.31, subd. 1, 327C.15 (2004). 

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 Minn. 371, 373, 188 N.W.2d 424, 426 (1971).

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 Ardmor Village, respondent unsuccessfully sought to enjoin appellant’s no-contact list.  In reaching the final figure, the court considered the benefit respondent’s statutory claim brought to “individuals and organizations such as [respondent].”  Because of that benefit, the court rejected the notion of awarding respondent only one-third of its fees.  Considering the purpose of the statute under which respondent asserted its claim and the fact that it achieved “considerable goals,” the court concluded that two-thirds of its fees was an appropriate award. 

Respondent argues that because its claim benefited the public, the district court erred in reducing its attorney-fee award.  We disagree.  Minnesota courts must consider the benefit to the public when awarding attorney fees under the private-attorney-general statute.  Ly, 615 N.W.2d at 314.  And the district court considered the public benefit here, citing the public benefit as its rationale for awarding respondent two-thirds of its claimed fees rather than one-third.  But Minnesota law does not state that a finding of public benefit necessarily mandates a full recovery of attorney fees.  Where a claim under the private-attorney-general statute benefits the public, the Minnesota Supreme Court has held that a district court must award reasonable fees, not the claimant’s fees in their entirety.  See Collins v. Minn. Sch. of Bus., 655 N.W.2d 320, 330 (Minn. 2003); see also Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subd. 3a (stating that a person bringing a private-attorney-general action may recover reasonable attorney fees). 

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. 

Minnesota law states:


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.


Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 (2004).  Application of a statute to the undisputed facts of a case involves a question of law, and the district court’s decision is not binding on this court.  O’Malley v. Ulland Bros., 549 N.W.2d 889, 892 (Minn. 1996). 

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 (Minn. 1979)) (other citations omitted).  Here, appellant is a private landowner, not a governmental actor.  And we reject the argument that Minn. Stat. § 327C.13 converts manufactured home parks into governmental entities.  Nothing in the language of the statute or its history indicates that the legislature intended to integrate First Amendment principles into this statute covering manufactured home communities.  And this court “cannot supply that which the legislature purposely omits or inadvertently overlooks.”  Wallace v. Comm’r of Taxation, 289 Minn. 220, 230, 184 N.W.2d 588, 594 (1971).   Because there is no state action here, we conclude that the district court’s order did not violate respondent’s First Amendment rights. 

The issue here is not constitutional but statutory.  Minnesota law states that the limits park owners place on noncommercial organizing, assembling, canvassing, and leafleting must be “reasonable.”  Minn. Stat. § 327C.13.  The district court upheld appellant’s no-contact list but ordered appellant to allow respondent access on Saturdays and for an additional hour in the evenings from May through August. 

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.” 

Respondent offers 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 Ardmor Village were reasonable under Minn. Stat. § 327C.13.