This opinion will be unpublished and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
James W. Kuhl, et al.,
Halquist Farms, Inc., et al.,
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency,
Filed October 3, 2006
Carver County District Court
File No. CX-02-865
James P. Peters, Karna M. Peters,
Peters & Peters, PLC,
Thomas G. Jovanovich, Sarah L.
Smith-Larkin, Rajkowski Hansmeier, Ltd.,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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
February 28, 2005, the district court granted
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
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. 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
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 (
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 (
A. Injunctive Relief on the Basis of Alleged Certification and Permitting Violations.
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 (
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
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.
argue that the district court erred by finding 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.
B. Injunctive Relief on the Basis of the Nuisance Claim against Halquist Respondents.
1. District Court’s Bifurcation Order.
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.
2. Statute of Limitations.
also claim that the district court erred in its application of a two-year
statute of limitations to appellants’ nuisance claim against the Halquists.
(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[.]
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.
the district court’s findings in the light most favorable to respondent
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.
 An amended version of this statute applies to actions
filed after August 1, 2004. See 2004