may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Armstrong Rigging and Erecting, Inc.,
a foreign corporation, garnishee,
Filed October 27, 1998
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 9412897
Jerome B. Abrams, Esq., Abrams & Smith, 700 Northstar Building, 625 Marquette Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent Armstrong Rigging & Erecting, Inc.)
Robert J. McGuire, Cousineau, McGuire & Anderson, 600 Travelers Express Tower, 1550 Utica Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55416-5318 (for respondent Carolina Casualty)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Thoreen, Judge.*
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Appellant Alfred Burbach brought a cause of action in federal court against respondent Armstrong Rigging & Erecting, Inc. for personal injuries arising out of his employment with Marquardt Transportation Company. Burbach obtained a federal court judgment against Armstrong based on a Miller - Shugart settlement agreement and loan receipt between Burbach, Armstrong, and Armstrong's insurer, Continental Insurance Company. Burbach filed a garnishment action against Carolina Casualty Company, which also insured Armstrong, in state district court to collect on the judgment and was granted summary judgment. On appeal, this court determined that the Miller - Shugart settlement agreement was unreasonable and unenforceable and remanded to the district court. On remand, the district court granted Carolina's motion to dismiss. Burbach now challenges that dismissal. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Burbach's garnishment action, we affirm.
A trial court's duty on remand is to execute the mandate of the remanding court strictly according to its terms. Duffey v. Duffey, 432 N.W.2d 473, 476 (Minn. App. 1988). When the trial court receives no specific directions as to how it should proceed in fulfilling the remanding court's order, the trial court has discretion in handling the cause in any manner not inconsistent with the remand order. John Wright & Assocs., Inc. v. City of Red Wing, 256 Minn. 101, 102, 97 N.W.2d 432, 434 (1959).
At the initial appeal, this court decided that the Miller - Shugart settlement agreement was invalid as a matter of law and even if it were valid, it was inherently unreasonable. Burbach v. Armstrong Rigging & Erecting, Inc., 560 N.W.2d 107, 110 (Minn. App. 1997). Although this court did not explicitly instruct the district court on how to proceed on remand, we relied on Alton M. Johnson, Co. v. MAI Co., 463 N.W.2d 277 (Minn. 1990) to suggest that if the settlement becomes unenforceable, the matter should be reinstated for trial. Id.
The district court held that in light of the pleadings filed and the federal court judgment, the only disposition of the action consistent with this court's ruling was to dismiss the garnishment action and refuse to hear appellant's personal injury claim. This disposition returned the case to the status quo ante. Carolina argues that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting its motion to dismiss. Burbach and Armstrong agree that Carolina should be dismissed from the garnishment action.
In support of Burbach's claim that the district court erred in granting the motion to dismiss and not granting him a jury trial on the underlying personal injury action, Burbach relied on Alton 463 N.W.2d at 280 (holding that when there is an unreasonable Miller - Shugart settlement, "it is fairest to return the parties to the even footing of a trial on the merits of the main action.").
Although the supreme court in Alton held that when there is an unreasonable Miller - Shugart agreement, the parties should be returned to the even footing of a trial on the merits of the main action, Alton is factually distinguishable from the present case. The underlying action in Alton neither commenced in federal court, resulted in a federal court judgment, nor involved a loan receipt agreement. Thus, the federal court judgment and the loan receipt agreement in this case preclude Burbach from receiving a jury trial on his underlying personal injury action.
Furthermore, the status quo ante of the parties prior to the garnishment action was that the appellant has a judgment against Armstrong for $825,000 for compensable damages. Thus, the district court's dismissal and refusal to grant Burbach a jury trial was not inconsistent with this court's previous remand order because it placed the parties in the position they were in prior to the garnishment action.
Burbach also argues that this court's prior decision invalidating the Miller - Shugart settlement agreement vacated the federal court judgment. This argument is without merit as a matter of law. The district court does not have the authority to vacate a federal court judgment and neither does this court.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.