This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Anoka County Community Action Program,





Kathleen Solmonson,



Filed May 16, 2006


Worke, Judge


Anoka County District Court

File No. C5-05-5181


Karen K. Kurth, Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd., 400 Northtown Financial Plaza, 200 Coon Rapids Boulevard, Coon Rapids, MN 55433 (for respondent)


James C. Skoog, 151 Silver Lake Road, #10, New Brighton, MN 55112 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.[*]

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

WORKE, Judge

            On appeal in this eviction action, appellant argues that (1) the district court should have ruled that this action was barred by res judicata; (2) proper notice of eviction was not given when, immediately after dismissing and expunging a prior eviction, respondent gave appellant one week to move out; (3) the district court should have allowed appellant’s affirmative defenses and addressed her retaliation claim; (4) the district court erred in ruling that respondent did not have to give appellant, who is disabled, a reasonable accommodation for her disability; and (5) the record does not support the finding that appellant breached her lease.  Because the district court did not clearly err, we affirm.  


            “On appeal, a [district] court’s findings of fact are given great deference, and shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.”  Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999).  Under the clearly erroneous standard of review, the district court’s findings will not be set aside unless, after reviewing the entire record, this court is left with the “firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made.”  City of Minnetonka v. Carlson, 298 N.W.2d 763, 766 (Minn. 1980).  “A clearly erroneous finding is one that is palpably and manifestly against the weight of the evidence.”  Wear v. Buffalo-Red River Watershed Dist., 621 N.W.2d 811, 815 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. May 15, 2001). 

Res Judicata


            Appellant Kathleen Solmonson argues that the district court erred in ruling that the principle of res judicata does not bar the current case.  The doctrine of res judicata can preclude the litigation of claims that previously have been litigated or could have been litigated in a former action.  Mattson v. Underwriters at Lloyds of London, 414 N.W.2d 717, 719 (Minn. 1987).  This court reviews the district court’s application of res judicata as a question of law.  Care Inst., Inc.-Roseville v. County of Ramsey, 612 N.W.2d 443, 446 (Minn. 2000).  Res judicata is properly invoked when (1) there is a final judgment on the merits; (2) a subsequent suit involves the same cause of action; and (3) the parties are identical or are in privity with the former parties.  In re Trusts by Hormel, 543 N.W.2d 668, 671 (Minn. App. 1996). 

            In May 2005, respondent Anoka County Community Action Program filed an unlawful-detainer action based on appellant’s failure to vacate the apartment.  The parties subsequently stipulated to dismiss and expunge the matter.  Immediately following the dismissal, respondent notified appellant that her lease was being terminated for “serious violations.”  The notice advised appellant to vacate the premises within seven days or a complaint in unlawful detainer would be filed on May 25, 2005.  When appellant failed to vacate the premises by that date, respondent filed a second unlawful-detainer action against appellant, alleging material violations of the lease. 

            While this action involves the same parties, there was no final judgment on the first unlawful-detainer action.  The first case was based solely in appellant’s status as a holdover tenant.  Respondent agreed to dismiss that case and immediately filed a new unlawful-detainer action for cause, alleging serious violations of the lease.  The evidence required to sustain the eviction for holdover status would have been different from the evidence presented in this case.  Further, there was no dismissal with prejudice and no entry of judgment of any kind.  The case was not adjudicated, and the parties did not enter into any type of settlement agreement.  Because appellant did not meet all the requirements for application of res judicata, the district court did not err in ruling that the doctrine of res judicata does not bar this action.


            Appellant argues that because this was a month-to-month tenancy, respondent was required to give her 30 days’ notice under Minn. Stat. § 504B.135(a) (2004) to vacate the premises before bringing an unlawful-detainer action.  However, this argument fails to acknowledge the specific terms of appellant’s lease signed in August 2004.  The lease contains a provision stating that any conduct on her part that violated the terms of the lease could result in immediate eviction without any prior notice.  The lease defines conduct that is considered in “material non-compliance” or breach of the lease.  Respondent’s action was an eviction for cause and contained allegations of serious lease violations.  Under the lease, respondent provided adequate notice when they notified her on May 18, 2005, that her lease would be terminated and an unlawful-detainer action filed if she failed to vacate the premises by May 25, 2005.  Because respondent was not required to give appellant 30 days’ notice prior to filing the unlawful-detainer action for breach of the lease, the district court did not err in denying appellant’s motion on this issue.

Affirmative Defenses/Retaliation

            Appellant argues that the district court precluded her from asserting affirmative defenses and a claim of retaliatory eviction.  Appellant alleges that respondent retaliated against her good-faith requests for necessary maintenance of her residence.  The district court heard substantial testimony on this issue.  Specifically, the caretaker of the apartments testified that all maintenance requests that she was aware of were dealt with expeditiously, and that she was unaware of any outstanding maintenance requests from appellant.  The district court is in the best position to judge the credibility of witnesses.  Maxfield v. Maxfield, 452 N.W.2d 219, 226 (Minn. 1990).  It was reasonable for the district court to determine that the caretaker’s testimony was more credible than appellant’s.  Further, appellant presented no evidence to support her claim that her maintenance requests went unanswered and that there were requests pending at the time of trial.  The failure to make findings on a particular issue is harmless error when no findings in favor of appellant would have been justified.  Cool v. Hubbard, 293 Minn. 349, 356 n.1, 199 N.W.2d 510, 514 n.1 (1972).  And appellant’s claim that the district court precluded her from asserting affirmative defenses is not supported by the record. 

Reasonable Accommodation


            Appellant argues that the district court erred in not ruling that respondent should have provided her reasonable accommodation for her known disability.  During her tenancy, appellant made two requests for accommodation.  First, in October 2004, appellant requested that she be allowed a companion animal as a reasonable accommodation for her disability.  Her request was granted.  Second, in May 2005, respondent received a letter from appellant’s attorney requesting a reasonable accommodation to relocate because she had difficulties with other tenants.  Appellant argues that the request for an accommodation was made in March 2005 through her request to participate in mediation.  But the mediation request came after appellant had been notified that her lease was not being renewed and does not state that appellant was requesting an accommodation.  Furthermore, respondent’s director of multi-family housing testified that even if appellant’s inability to get along with other tenants was considered a “disability,” respondent had no appropriate housing available that would fit appellant’s needs.  Specifically, the director testified that simply moving appellant to another building would not solve the problem.  The director testified that she provided appellant’s social worker with a list of housing options available in Anoka County that would serve appellant’s needs.  Based on the evidence, the district court did not err in not ruling that respondent failed to provide appellant with a reasonable accomodation.

Material Violation


            The district court found, after hearing all of the testimony, that appellant had breached the lease by engaging in assaultive and aggressive behavior toward other tenants, which disrupted the livability of the property and adversely affected the health and safety of other tenants.  The district court determined that while appellant’s witnesses were credible, those witnesses could not and did not testify regarding the specific lease violations alleged by respondent’s witnesses.  Again, the district court is in the best position to judge the credibility of witnesses.  Maxfield, 452 N.W.2d at 226.  It was reasonable for the district court to determine that respondent’s witnesses were more credible than appellant’s witnesses.  Sufficient evidence supports the district court’s findings.  Therefore, the district court’s findings are not palpably and manifestly against the weight of the evidence. 


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