This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




First Financial Bank, FSB,

a Wisconsin Corporation,



Harold H.G. Edwards,


Filed May 18, 1999


Short, Judge

Dakota County District Court

File No. C5986761

Thomas J. Lallier, Teresa E. O'Halloran, Foley & Mansfield, P.L.L.P., 1108 Nicollet Mall, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (for respondent)

Eric L. Crandall, 275 South Third Street, Suite 101, Stillwater, MN 55082 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Schultz, Judge.[*]


SHORT, Judge

First Financial Bank (First Financial), a Wisconsin creditor, brought an action in Minnesota conciliation court against Harold H. G. Edwards for an unpaid debt owed on his credit card. After the conciliation court awarded judgment for First Financial, Edwards appealed. The trial court awarded summary judgment to First Financial, affirming the conciliation court judgment and dismissing Edwards's counterclaims. On appeal, Edwards argues: (1) First Financial failed to properly plead its breach of contract claim; and (2) Edwards's counterclaims were not released under prior settlements. We affirm.


On appeal from summary judgment, this court examines whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the trial court erred in its application of the law. State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990), see Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03 (setting forth trial court standard for summary judgment). Although this court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was granted, summary judgment is appropriate against a party who fails to establish the existence of an element essential to its case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986); Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993).


Edwards argues that First Financial failed to properly plead its breach of contract claim. See Wisc. Stat. § 425.109 (1998) (defining detailed requirements for pleading under Wisconsin Consumer Act). However, Minnesota is a notice pleading state that requires only a sufficient basis of facts to notify the opposing party of the claims raised against it. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 8.01 (requiring pleading to include "short and plain statement of the claim"), 8.05 (defining rules of pleading to require "simple, concise, and direct" statements); see also Davis v. Furlong, 328 N.W.2d 150, 153 (Minn. 1983) (reaffirming "almost universal rule" that matters of procedure and remedies are governed by law of forum state); Roberge v. Cambridge Coop. Creamery Co., 243 Minn. 230, 232, 67 N.W.2d 400, 402 (1954) (stating pleadings must "be framed so as to give fair notice of the claim asserted").

The record demonstrates: (1) in its conciliation court claim, First Financial alleged Edwards had a balance of $1,579.71 due on his credit card; (2) in trial court pleadings, both parties defined the action as a contract claim; (3) in its motion for summary judgment, First Financial asserted Edwards contracted for the use of a credit card and "breached his agreement with First Financial, causing First Financial to suffer monetary damages," and that such breach occurred by Edwards "failing to make timely payments on his account"; and (4) in his answer, Edwards acknowledged he "contracted" with First Financial for the use of a credit card and that he "defaulted" on the "contract." Given these facts, First Financial's pleadings were sufficiently clear, and Edwards was cognizant of First Financial's breach of contract claim. See Northern States Power Co. v. Franklin, 265 Minn. 391, 394, 122 N.W.2d 26, 29 (1963) (holding functions of pleading are to give fair notice to adverse party with sufficient clarity to disclose pleader's theory).


Edwards also argues the trial court erred in dismissing his counterclaims for violations of the Wisconsin Consumer Act. See Wisc. Stat. §§ 218.04(2) (1998) (requiring licensing of collectors and collection agencies), 427.103(3) 1998) (defining debt collector); 427.104 (1998) (defining prohibited practices of debt collectors to include various threats). But the record shows: (1) Edwards alleged First Financial violated the Wisconsin Consumer Act through the retention of unlicensed agents, the practices of its four debt collection agencies, and the imposition of unlawful late fees and charges; (2) Edwards entered into settlement agreements with each debt collection agency and received total compensation of $14,500; and (3) the four settlement agreements included language that released and discharged "any and all known and unknown claims, actions, causes of action, demands, liabilities, and complaints of any nature whatsoever, arising from the debt collection activities" of each agency. Given these facts, the comprehensive settlement agreements released all of Edwards's claims against First Financial. See Reedon of Faribault, Inc. v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Underwriters, Inc., 418 N.W.2d 488, 491 (Minn. 1988) (holding release of insurance agent from liability had effect of releasing insurer from any vicarious liability for torts of agent); Luxenburg v. Can-Tex Indus., 257 N.W.2d 804, 807-08 (Minn. 1977) (noting general release of one tortfeasor releases all others if settlement agreement manifests such intent or if plaintiff received full compensation in law or fact for damages sought against remaining tortfeasors). Under these circumstances, the trial court properly dismissed the counterclaims.


[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.