This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







James W. Kuhl, et al.,





Halquist Farms, Inc., et al.,



County of Carver, Minnesota, et al.,



Minnesota Pollution Control Agency,



Filed October 3, 2006


Willis, Judge


Carver County District Court

File No. CX-02-865



James P. Peters, Karna M. Peters, Peters & Peters, PLC, 507 North Nokomis Street, Suite 100, Alexandria, MN  56308 (for appellants)


Thomas G. Jovanovich, Sarah L. Smith-Larkin, Rajkowski Hansmeier, Ltd., 11 Seventh Avenue North, P.O. Box 1433, St. Cloud, MN  56302 (for respondents Halquist Farms, Inc., et al.)


Paul D. Reuvers, Susan M. Tindal, Iverson Reuvers, 9321 Ensign Avenue South, Bloomington, MN  55438 (for respondents County of Carver, Minnesota, et al.)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Richard P. Cool, Assistant Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 900, St. Paul, MN  55101 (for respondent Minnesota Pollution Control Agency)


            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


In this interlocutory appeal from a denial of injunctive relief after the first stage of a bifurcated trial involving a feedlot-permitting dispute, appellants seek review of the district court’s denial of permanent injunctive relief.  Appellants also seek review of two partial judgments that dismiss several of their claims and an order precluding their expert witnesses’ testimony.  Appellants argue that under Minn. R. Civ. P. 103.03(j), 103.04, and the collateral-order doctrine, this court should review decisions not otherwise within the scope of our review.  Because we limit our review to those rulings on which the denial of injunctive relief was based, and because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s request for injunctive relief as it related to the permitting issues in the first portion of the bifurcated trial, we affirm.



Respondent Halquist Farms, Inc. is owned by respondents William and Florence Halquist.  In 1992, the Halquists sought to expand their dairy feedlot, including the addition of an earthen manure-storage basin.  Carver County personnel assisted the Halquists in completing the permit application for the feedlot expansion, which included, in addition to the storage basin, a new free-stall barn and a milking parlor.  The Carver County Soil and Conservation District dug a test pit to ensure that soils in the area were suitable for the storage basin.  The Halquists constructed the barn and the storage basin, and Carver County issued a certificate of compliance to the Halquists.

Appellants James and Marilynn Kuhl live approximately 350 feet from the Halquists’ storage basin.  In August 1993, appellants attended a Carver County Board of Commissioners meeting to complain about the county’s lack of feedlot controls.  In May 1994, appellants called the MPCA to complain about the Halquists’ storage basin. In June, appellants sent a letter to the MPCA complaining about odors from the basin.  In response, the MPCA conducted an investigation, which was completed in December 1996.  The MPCA found that the storage basin complied with the MPCA’s rules in effect when it was constructed and that the basin was structurally sound.

In August 1997, appellants sent another letter to the MPCA complaining about possible leakage from the storage basin and renewing their complaints about odors.  In December 1998, the MPCA and the Halquists entered into a memorandum of understandingintended to prevent violations of the state ambient-air-quality standard for hydrogen sulfide.

In February 1999, appellants sent another letter to the MPCA complaining about odors from the storage basin and threatening legal action.  In April, the MPCA determined that there was no basis for an enforcement action against the Halquists.  But the MPCA nevertheless collected continuous-air-monitor (CAM) data for a total of 52 days and determined that the Halquists were in compliance with the state ambient-hydrogen-sulfide standards.

In April 2002, appellants commenced this action against the Halquists for damages resulting from an alleged nuisance caused by the Halquists’ feedlot operation, negligence in the construction and operation of the Halquists’ storage basin, and against William Halquist for an alleged assault on James Kuhl.  Appellants also sought declaratory relief and a writ of mandamus against Carver County for improperly issuing approvals, certificates, and permits to the Halquists in violation of Minnesota law and county ordinances.  In September 2003, appellants amended their complaint to add the MPCA as a defendant.  In June 2004, the district court dismissed with prejudice all claims against the MPCA, and partial judgment was entered.  The MPCA requested that the district court issue an order under Minn. R. Civ. P. 54.02 containing an express determination that there was no just reason for delay of the entry of judgment in favor of the MPCA to allow an immediate appeal from the partial judgment, but the district court denied the request.

On February 28, 2005, the district court granted Carver County’s motion to bifurcate the claims against the government defendants from the claims against the Halquists; a bench trial was scheduled on the permitting issues, and a jury trial on the nuisance, negligence, and assault claims was deferred.  The February 28, 2005 order also precluded appellants from calling any experts “not previously disclosed” to respondents. 

Between April 5 and 11, 2005, a five-day bench trial was held on the permitting issues.  Appellants requested that the permits be declared void and sought injunctive relief.  In an order dated August 29, 2005, the district court concluded that appellants had unreasonably and inexcusably delayed filing their lawsuit, thus prejudicing respondents, and barred appellants’ claims on the permitting issues on the ground of laches.  Alternatively, the district court concluded that Carver County had either fully complied or substantially complied with applicable MPCA rules by issuing the 1992 Certificate of Compliance for the feedlot.  The district court also found that because appellants did not bring an action against the Halquists within two years after the established date of operation of the storage basin, the nuisance claim arising from the storage basin’s construction was time-barred.  The district court ordered all claims against Carver County dismissed with prejudice.  It also ordered that all claims against the Halquists be dismissed except for the claims for nuisance, negligence, and assault and ordered that any subsequent trial on the nuisance claim would be limited by the findings of the court as set forth in the order.

On September 30, 2005, partial judgment was entered on the August 2005 order.  This interlocutory appeal from the denial of injunctive relief follows.  This court questioned whether the partial judgments at issue were appealable or whether the appeal was limited to the denial of injunctive relief.  After the parties submitted memoranda, a special-term panel of this court ordered that “the scope of review includes the district court’s rulings on appellants’ permitting claims to the extent that those rulings are necessary to appellate review of the denial of injunctive relief.”




The district court’s denial of appellants’ motion for injunctive relief is reviewable as a matter of right.  Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.03(b) (expressly allowing for the appeal of an order that refuses to grant an injunction).  Appellants argue that this court should expand its scope of review to consider other issues, including the grant of summary judgment to the MPCA and the preclusion of expert witnesses.[1]  The record shows that the district court expressly denied a request to enter final judgment on the dismissal of the claims against the MPCA.  In addition, the district court’s preclusion of expert-witness testimony is not part of a final judgment.  Because there is no final judgment on either of these issues and their determination is not necessary to our review of the denial of injunctive relief, we decline to consider them.



            Appellants argue that the district court abused its discretion by denying injunctive relief.  Appellants argue that injunctive relief should be awarded on two grounds:  first, on their claim that Carver County improperly certified the Halquists’ feedlot, and second, on their nuisance claim against the Halquists. In support of their argument, appellants raise numerous issues relating to decisions of the district court, including whether the trial should have been bifurcated; whether the district court’s findings are supported by the evidence; and whether the district court erred as a matter of law in determining that Carver County substantially complied with all applicable rules when it certified the Halquists’ feedlot, in its application of the doctrine of laches, and in its application of a statute of limitations.  We address these issues only to the extent necessary to our review of the denial of injunctive relief.

Under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103(b), this court has jurisdiction to hear an interlocutory appeal from a district court’s order denying an injunction.  A district court’s findings of fact will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.  Haley v. Forcelle, 669 N.W.2d 48, 55 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (Minn. Nov. 23, 2003).  We must view the district court’s findings in the light most favorable to the prevailing party.  Webb Publ’g Co. v. Fosshage, 426 N.W.2d 445, 448 (Minn. App. 1988).  This court will not overturn a district court’s decision whether to issue an injunction absent a clear abuse of discretion.  State, ex rel. Hatch v. Cross County Bank, Inc., 703 N.W.2d 562, 571 (Minn. App. 2005) (citing Carl Bolander & Sons Co. v. City of Minneapolis, 502 N.W.2d 203, 209 (Minn. 1993)).  But this court need not give deference to a district court’s determination of purely legal questions and will reverse the denial of injunctive relief if it is based on errors of law.  See Unique Sys. Dev., Inc. v. Star Agency, 500 N.W.2d 144 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. July 15, 1993).

When seeking a permanent injunction to enforce a regulatory rule that does not expressly authorize an injunction or a common-law right, the proponent must satisfy the common law’s test. See Jackel v. Brower, 668 N.W.2d 685, 690 (Minn. App. 2003) (noting that district court must conduct proper analysis before awarding injunctive relief to enforce a zoning ordinance), review denied (Minn. Nov. 25, 2003). First, the merits of the party’s claim must be determined before permanent injunctive relief is awarded.  Bio-Line, Inc. v. Burman, 404 N.W.2d 318,320 (Minn. App. 1987).  Once the merits of the party’s claim have been decided, the party seeking the permanent injunction must establish that there is no adequate legal remedy and that the “injunction is necessary to prevent great and irreparable injury.”  Cherne Indus., Inc. v. Grounds & Assocs., Inc., 278 N.W.2d 81, 92 (Minn. 1979); see Jackel, 668 N.W.2d at 688.

A.        Injunctive Relief on the Basis of Alleged Certification and Permitting Violations.


1.         Laches.

Appellants argue that the district court erred by concluding that the doctrine of laches precludes them from pursuing their claims of certification and permitting violations.  Absent an abuse of discretion, we will not disturb a district court’s decision to apply laches.  Opp v. Opp, 516 N.W.2d 193, 196 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Aug. 24, 1994). 

The purpose of the application of the doctrine of laches is “‘to prevent one who has not been diligent in asserting a known right from recovering at the expense of one who has been prejudiced by the delay.’”  Klapmeier v. Town of Center, 346 N.W.2d 133, 137 (Minn. 1984) (quoting Aronovitch v. Levy, 238 Minn. 237, 242, 56 N.W.2d 570, 574 (1953)).  “Application of the doctrine of laches depends on a factual determination in each case.”  Harr v. City of Edina, 541 N.W.2d 603, 606 (Minn. App. 1996).  In deciding whether to apply laches, a district court must determine whether there has been such an unreasonable delay in asserting a known right, resulting in prejudice to others, that it would be inequitable to grant the relief requested.  Id.(quotation omitted). 

Appellants argue that, although they did not start their lawsuit until 2002, they had been pursuing administrative remedies before then, so that their delay was not unreasonable.  The district court found that (1) in 1992, the Halquists began building the storage basin and received a certificate of compliance from Carver County; (2) in 1993, appellants were aware of the construction of the storage basin and complained to the county about the absence of feedlot regulation; (3) in 1994, appellants complained to the MPCA about the Halquists’ storage basin; (4) in 1997, the Halquists’ conditional-use permit (CUP) was granted after a public hearing, over appellants’ objections; (5) appellants did not appeal the grant of the CUP; and (6) appellants did not file a lawsuit until 2002.  Based on these findings, the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the doctrine of laches bars appellants’ challenge to the issued permits.

2.         Substantial Compliance.

Appellants argue that the district court erred by finding that Carver County substantially complied with the permitting rules.  The doctrine of substantial compliance recognizes that

the law does not mandate in all cases strict and literal compliance with all procedural requirements.  Technical defects in compliance which do not reflect bad faith, undermine the purpose of the procedures, or prejudice the rights of those intended to be protected by the procedures will not suffice to overturn governmental action, particularly where . . . substantial commitments have been made.  


City of Minneapolis v. Wurtele, 291 N.W.2d 386, 391 (Minn. 1980); Manco of Fairmont, Inc. v. Town Bd. of Rock Dell Twp., 583 N.W.2d 293, 295 (Minn. App. 1998).  To determine whether the doctrine of substantial compliance applies to a specific ordinance or rule, we determine first whether the ordinance or rule in question is mandatory or directory. See Manco, 583 N.W.2d at 295 (noting that if a statute is mandatory, the doctrine of substantial compliance does not apply).  Appellants do not clearly specify the ordinances or rules that they claim were not substantially complied with.  Because appellants have not adequately briefed this issue, we decline to reach it.  See State, Dep’t of Labor & Indus. v. Wintz Parcel Drivers, Inc., 558 N.W.2d 480, 480 (Minn. 1997); Ganguli v. Univ. of Minn., 512 N.W.2d 918, 919 n.1 (Minn. App. 1994).

B.        Injunctive Relief on the Basis of the Nuisance Claim against Halquist Respondents.


1.         District Court’s Bifurcation Order.

Appellants claim that the district court erred by bifurcating the trial, thereby denying them an opportunity to prove the extent of the alleged nuisance before the district court denied their request for an injunction.  District courts have discretion to bifurcate trials when there are multiple claims or parties.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 42.02; Emporium of Jazz v. City of Mendota, 374 N.W.2d 825, 828 (Minn. App. 1985).  Here, the district court severed the permitting claims against the county from the nuisance, negligence, and assault claims against the Halquists.  The district court reasoned that the permitting claims are “strictly equitable” claims regarding the legality of the permits and that the claims against the Halquists are more fact-based.  In addition, the district court determined that it would be “more expedient and efficient” to separate the claims for trial.  We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by bifurcating the trial.

2.         Statute of Limitations.

Appellants also claim that the district court erred in its application of a two-year statute of limitations to appellants’ nuisance claim against the Halquists.  Minnesota law limits nuisance liability for agricultural operations.  Minn. Stat. § 561.19, subd. 2 (2002).[2]  The applicable statute provides, in relevant part:

(a) An agricultural operation is not and shall not become a private or public nuisance after two years from its established date of operation if the operation was not a nuisance at its established date of operation.


(b) An agricultural operation is operating according to generally accepted agricultural practices if it is located in an agriculturally zoned area and complies with the provisions of all applicable federal and state statutes and rules or any issued permits for the operation.


(c) the provisions of this subdivision do not apply:


(1) to a condition or injury which results from the negligent or improper operation of an agricultural operation or from operations contrary to commonly accepted agricultural practices or to applicable state or local laws, ordinances, rules or permits;


(2) when an agricultural operation causes injury or direct threat of injury to the health or safety of any person[.]


Id.(emphasis added).  Based on this statute and the fact that appellants did not bring their action within two years after the established date of operation of the storage basin, the district court concluded that appellants’ claim that the storage basin is a nuisance as constructed and placed into operation was time-barred.  It appears that the district court ruled on this issue in order to limit the scope of evidence in the second stage of the bifurcated trial.  At oral argument, appellants claimed that the district court’s order prevents them from proving that any of the exceptions listed in Minn. Stat. § 561.19, subd. 2(c), applies.  Under the exceptions, if a condition or injury resulted from the “negligent or improper operation” of the storage basin in question or if the operation caused an “injury or direct threat of injury to the health or safety of any person,” a nuisance could be found.  Id. at subd. 2(c)(1)–(2). 

We conclude appellants misread the district court’s order.  We interpret the district court’s order to mean only that appellants’ claim that the storage basin is a nuisance as it was constructed and put into operation is time-barred. Our interpretation is supported by the facts that the district court did not dismiss appellants’ nuisance claim against the Halquist respondents and noted that the trial on the nuisance claim would be limited by the findings of the district court as set forth in the court’s order.  We do not read the district court’s order as barring appellants from presenting evidence at the jury trial that the Halquist respondents’ alleged negligence in operating the storage basin created a nuisance or that the storage basin either injured or directly threatened appellants with injury.  Based on this understanding of the district court’s order, we affirm.

            C.        Conclusion.

Viewing the district court’s findings in the light most favorable to respondent Carver County, appellants have not established that the district court abused its discretion.  Because the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying the doctrine of laches, and because appellants did not prove, in any case, any violations of specific rules or ordinances regarding the permit application, certification, or CUP, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying injunctive relief at this point in the proceedings.  We express no opinion regarding the propriety of injunctive relief as to appellants remaining claims against the Halquist respondents.


[1] Partial judgments are not immediately appealable unless the district court makes an express determination that there is no just reason for delay and expressly directs the entry of a final judgment.  Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.03 (a) (allowing an appeal of a partial judgment entered pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 54.02).  But this court has the discretion to review any order affecting the order from which the appeal is taken.  Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.04.  This court may also review any other matter as the interests of justice may require.  Id.

[2] An amended version of this statute applies to actions filed after August 1, 2004.  See 2004 Minn. Laws ch. 254, § 43-44, at 831-32.