This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).






In re the Estate of

Cameron R. E. Lyseng, Deceased.


Filed August 14, 2007


Randall, Judge


Kandiyohi County District Court

File No. 34-PR-05-71


Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Stephanie A. Riley, Assistant Attorney General, 900 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2127; and


Boyd A. Beccue, Kandiyohi County Attorney, William J. Watson, Assistant County Attorney, 37 Northwest Second Street, P.O. Box 187, Ortonville, MN  56278 (for respondent Department of Human Services)


Kathleen Gates, 8552 Big Rock Road, Santee, California 92071; and


Carol L. Smith, 2110 Bula Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80915 (pro se appellants)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Willis, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Personal representatives Kathleen Gates and Carol L. Smith filed this pro se appeal from a district court order that permitted respondent Minnesota Department of Human Services to recover from the estate of a deceased client, Cameron R. E. Lyseng, the total cost of care given to the client at a regional treatment center.  Appellants challenge the district court’s allowance of Big Stone County’s claim, made through the Department of Human Services, arguing that the district court misapplied Minn. Stat. § 246.53, subd. 1 (2006).  We affirm.


            Decedent Cameron R.E. Lyseng was born on May 25, 1923, in Minneapolis, MN and died on May 10, 2005, in Willmar, MN.  In 1967, 1969, 1970, and 2004-05, the decedent was a patient at the Willmar Regional Treatment Center.  The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) paid for the entire cost of care for his 1967, 1969, and 1970 admissions.  DHS and Big Stone County shared the cost of care for decedent’s 2004-05 admission.  After Cameron Lyseng’s death, DHS submitted a claim to decedent’s estate for $185,035.82, which was later amended to $141,795.72, for recovery of the portion of the cost of care that it had paid.  Big Stone County submitted a claim to decedent’s estate for $44,873.55, which was later amended to $32,385.50, for recovery of its portion of the cost of care it had paid to Willmar Regional Treatment Center on decedent’s behalf. 

Through the appellants, Lyseng’s estate disallowed the claims of DHS and Big Stone County.  DHS and Big Stone County petitioned the probate court for allowance of their claims, and a hearing was held on May 22, 2006.  Big Stone County moved to have its claim included in DHS’s claim, arguing that it was required by Minn. Stat. § 246.53 (2006), and DHS did not object.  The district court granted the motion:  “The State now wears the hat for both the State of Minnesota, Department of Human Services and Big Stone County.” 

During the hearing, DHS and Big Stone County submitted evidence of their payments of decedent’s cost of care.  Appellants did not submit any evidence regarding the payments, but instead argued that there is no statutory authority for Big Stone County to recover for the payment of decedent’s cost of care.  Appellants conceded orally that the estate owed $140,183.40 of the $141,795.72 claimed by DHS.  The district court order of June 26, 2006, allowed DHS’s amended claim, including Big Stone County’s amended claim in the amount of $32,382.50.  This appeal follows.



            Appellants contend that the district court erred by allowing the state (DHS) to recover Big Stone County’s costs, arguing that the county’s costs “cannot be subsumed by the department of human services.”  “This court’s scope of review is limited to deciding whether the probate court’s findings are clearly erroneous and whether it erred in its legal conclusions.”  In re Estate of Simpkins, 446 N.W.2d 188, 190 (Minn. App. 1989).  Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.  Morton Bldgs., Inc. v. Comm’r of Revenue, 488 N.W.2d 254, 257 (Minn. 1992).  The goal of statutory interpretation is to effectuate the legislative intent.  Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2006).  When the language of a statute is unambiguous, the court applies its plain meaning.  Id.

Here, the district court’s order allowed DHS to recover the total cost of providing care to decedent that was paid by DHS and Big Stone County, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 246.53, subd.1 (2006).  Under Minnesota law, a county is not permitted to recover costs, except through the process described in Minn. Stat. § 246.53:  “The county shall not be entitled to reimbursement from the client, the client’s estate, or from the client’s relatives, except as provided in section 246.53.”  Minn. Stat. § 246.54, subd. 1 (2006).  The process established in Minn. Stat. § 246.53 is as follows:

Upon the death of a client, or a former client, the total cost of care given the client, less the amount actually paid toward the cost of care by the client and the client’s relatives, shall be filed by the commissioner as a claim against the estate of the client with the court having jurisdiction to probate the estate and all proceeds collected by the state in the case shall be divided between the state and county in proportion to the cost of care each has borne.


Minn. Stat. § 246.53, subd. 1 (emphasis added).  That is, the commissioner is required to file for the recovery of the entire cost of care given to the client, including the portion paid by the county.  The statute specifically includes the county’s proportion of the cost. 

Here, the county initially filed a separate claim with the estate, which is not in accordance with the process proscribed by Minn. Stat. §§ 246.53, subd. 1, .54, subd. 1.  This was remedied at the hearing when the county moved for the state to include the county’s costs in its claim.  The state did not object, and the district court granted the county’s motion.  The district court did not err by combining the claims, because that is what the statute requires. 

Appellants’ argument that the statute produces an absurd result, because it permits the county to recover twice, is not supported by the record.  The statute does not permit the county to recover twice; nor has the county actually recovered twice.


            Appellants next argue that the county’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations, which requires that a claim be brought within four months of the statutorily-required notice to creditors.  See Minn. Stat. § 524.3-803 (2006) (limiting the period for filing claim against decedent’s estate).  We disagree.

First, as respondents accurately observe, appellants did not raise a statute of limitations defense before the district court; they may not do so for the first time on appeal.  See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (declining to consider issues that were not presented or decided by the district court).  However, appellate courts have discretion to address any issue as justice requires.  Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.04; Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343,350 (Minn. 2002).

            Second, in considering appellants’ argument, we conclude that the claims were not barred, because they were filed within the period mandated by the statute of limitations.  Notice to creditors was provided on June 29, 2005.  Big Stone County filed its claim on August 10, 2005, and DHS filed its claim on August 26, 2005.  Both claims were filed within the four-month statutory time-frame. 

If appellants are arguing that the amendment violated the statute-of-limitations, this argument also fails.  An amendment to the original claim does not affect the filing date for purposes of the statute of limitations.  “Whenever the claim or defense asserted in the amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading, the amendment relates back to the date of the original pleading.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 15.03; see Nelson v. Glenwood Hills Hospitals, 240 Minn. 505, 514, 62 N.W.2d 73, 78 (1953) (“Under this rule an amendment to a complaint or petition setting up no new cause of action will relate back to the commencement of the action.”).  Because DHS filed its claim within the proscribed period, an amendment to DHS’s claim to include the county’s claim does not violate the statute of limitations.  Furthermore, appellants had actual notice of the claims by both DHS and Big Stone County within the statute-of-limitations period.

We conclude that the district court properly applied the statute by combining the claims and that the statute of limitations did not bar the county’s claim.