may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Charles F. Leekley,
James J. Dunn, et al.,
Filed December 29, 1998
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 972969
Glen A. Norton, Ross & Norton PLLP, 1057 Stoughton Avenue, Chaska, MN 55318 (for respondent)
Glenn P. Bruder, Glenn P. Bruder, P.A., 4005 West 65th Street, Suite 200, Edina, MN 55435 (for appellants)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.[*]
After a trial to the court, appellants James J. Dunn and the Lakeside Marina, Inc., defendants in an action claiming unpaid commissions, contend the district court erred by: (1) refusing to consider appellants' setoff claims; (2) finding Dunn personally liable to respondent Charles Leekley for wages and commissions; (3) awarding respondent commissions for the boat auction; (4) unfairly limiting appellants' ability to present a defense; and (5) awarding excessive damages and attorney fees. We affirm.
We are not bound by and need not give deference to the trial court's findings on purely legal issues. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984). If we determine the trial court ruling is not supported by the evidence, we may re-apply the law to the facts as found by the trial court. Edwards v. Hennepin County, 397 N.W.2d 584, 586 (Minn. App. 1986).
Respondent was not required to plead his damages with specificity. Rule 8.01 states:
[a] pleading which sets forth a claim for relief * * * shall contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and a demand for judgment for the relief sought * * *.
Minn. R. Civ. P. 8.01. Minnesota rules do not require the claim to state how the damages are to be figured, and pleadings may be based upon either allegations of fact or allegations of law. See First Nat'l Bank v. Olson, 246 Minn. 28, 37-38, 74 N.W.2d 123, 129 (1955). Where allegations of fact are made, a specific legal theory need not be alleged if the factual allegations put the other party on notice of the claim. Padco, Inc. v. Kinney & Lange, 444 N.W.2d 889, 891 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. Nov. 15, 1989).
Here, the allegations asserted in conciliation court were taken as the pleadings. See Minn. R. Gen. Prac. 522. The allegations in conciliation court included factual allegations regarding the commissions. Also, appellants were given specific notice several months before the trial that Minn. Stat. § 181.145, subd. 3, would be used, when respondent sent appellants a settlement letter using section 181.145, subdivision 3, to calculate damages. We conclude respondent was not required to plead the use of Minn. Stat. § 181.145, subd. 3, in order to have the court use it to calculate damages.
Appellants claim that even if respondent was not procedurally barred from using Minn. Stat. § 181.145, subd. 3, respondent was not entitled to damages under it. Appellants contend respondent cannot claim he was an independent contractor because he previously requested and received reemployment benefits. We disagree.
We have held that administrative decisions of the Department of Jobs and Training should not be given collateral estoppel effect in subsequent proceedings. Clapper v. Budget Oil Co., 437 N.W.2d 722, 727 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. June 9, 1989). Moreover, trial courts are given broad discretion in deciding whether to apply collateral estoppel offensively. White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians v. Alexander, 683 F.2d 1129, 1134 (8th Cir. 1982).
Here, the district court found that at the time respondent earned the commissions at issue, he was paid on a commission basis only, and he paid his own taxes. These findings are not challenged. Because the evidence is sufficient to conclude respondent was an independent contractor, the district court did not err in using Minn. Stat. § 181.145, subd. 3 (1996), to figure damages.
Appellants contend the award of attorney fees was not justified because the district court made no finding of bad faith. A finding of bad faith is not necessary, however, because Minn. Stat. § 181.171, subd. 3 (1996), requires the court to assess attorney fees in any action based upon Minn. Stat. § 181.145. Section 181.171, subdivision 3, reads:
In an action brought under subdivision 1 [which includes violations of § 181.145], the court shall order an employer who is found to have committed a violation to pay to the aggrieved party reasonable costs, disbursements, witness fees, and attorney fees.
Minn. Stat. § 181.171, subd. 3 (emphasis added). Because this subdivision gives no discretion to the court, the district court properly awarded attorney fees.
Finally, we conclude respondent is entitled to attorney fees on appeal. "Where a prevailing plaintiff is entitled by statute to recover attorney fees at trial, that plaintiff may also be entitled to attorney fees on appeal." Bucko v. First Minn. Sav. Bank, 471 N.W.2d 95, 99 (Minn. 1991) (reasoning that to deny attorney fees in such a situation would undermine the purpose of the statutory requirement). Therefore, we award attorney fees of $700 to respondent for this appeal.
[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.