This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Filed May 16, 2006
Anoka County District Court
File No. C5-05-5181
Karen K. Kurth, Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd., 400 Northtown
James C. Skoog,
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
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.
D E C I S I O N
“On appeal, a [district] court’s
findings of fact are given great deference, and shall not be set aside unless
clearly erroneous.” Fletcher v.
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
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’
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,
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
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.