may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Dr. Keith V. Chilgren,
Allstate Insurance Company,
State of Minnesota,
Filed May 25, 1999
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C9984854
Kevin J. Short, Suite 2890, 333 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Eric J. Magnuson, Todd P. Zettler, Rider, Bennett, Egan & Arundel, 2000 Metropolitan Center, 333 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent Allstate)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Nancy J. Bode, Assistant Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2131 (for respondent State of Minnesota)
Timothy D. Kelly, Jennifer L. Frisch, Kelly & Barens, P.A., 3720 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents patient intervenors)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.
Appellant Keith Chilgren, M.D., contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to intervene on behalf of unrepresented patients in a suit in which Allstate Insurance Company was seeking access to medical records compiled by the state during a criminal investigation of the doctor. We affirm.
In this appeal, Dr. Chilgren challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to intervene. He is the doctor at the center of Allstate Ins. Co. v. State of Minn., No. C1-98-1953 (Minn. App. Apr. 27, 1999), a case in which the insurance company sought patient records compiled during a criminal investigation. He acknowledges that several patients have sought counsel and intervened in the underlying suit to protect their interests, but argues that other patients have not, and that he seeks to protect the unrepresented patients' interest.
Courts are designed to decide actual controversies. See Elzie v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 298 N.W.2d 29, 32 (Minn. 1980). Although exceptions exist, see, e.g., Falgren v. State, Bd. of Teaching, 545 N.W.2d 901, 903 (Minn. 1996); State v. Rud, 359 N.W.2d 573, 576 (Minn. 1984), the general rule is that when, pending appeal, an event occurs that makes a decision on the merits unnecessary or an award of effective relief impossible, the appeal should be dismissed as moot. In re Inspection of Minn. Auto Specialties, Inc., 346 N.W.2d 657, 658 (Minn. 1984).
The mootness doctrine, therefore, implies a comparison between the relief demanded and the circumstances of the case at the time of decision in order to determine whether there is a live controversy that can be resolved.
In re Application of Minnegasco, 565 N.W.2d 706, 710 (Minn. 1997).
Respondent Allstate argues that the doctor's appeal is moot. At the time that Allstate briefed and argued the case, oral arguments in Allstate had already occurred. Allstate argues that because of this, the doctor's appeal here will have "no practical effect." In addition, since oral argument in this case, our court has released its opinion in the underlying suit, affirming the district court's decision that Allstate is not entitled to medical records compiled during a criminal investigation by the state.
Allstate presents a strong argument on mootness. We recognize that, indeed, this is a close case. We are persuaded, however, by appellant's argument that the potential for further review of this court's decision keeps this controversy alive. Therefore, we shall address the merits of the denial of appellant's motion to intervene.
Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 24.01 establishes a four-part test that a non-party must meet before being allowed to intervene as of right: (1) a timely application for intervention; (2) an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action; (3) circumstances demonstrating that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the party's ability to protect that interest; and (4) a showing that the party is not adequately represented by the existing parties. Minn. R. Civ. P. 24.01; Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Schumacher, 392 N.W.2d 197, 207 (Minn. 1986). All four parts of the test must be met. Id.
In their argument on appeal, the parties focus on the fourth prong of the test. The district court, while granting the patient intervenors' motion to intervene in the underlying suit, denied the similar motion of appellant. In doing so, the court observed:
The patients themselves can protect their interests. [Appellant] did not voluntarily lose control of these records. The state obtained them through the ordinary processes of a criminal investigation. The State recognizes the privacy rights of the patients. It opposes the release.
We agree with the district court and can see no evidence that the unrepresented patients' rights will not be represented adequately by both the patient intervenors and by the state. Allstate admitted in oral argument that it can conceive of no situation in which it would treat the records of the unrepresented patients differently from those of the patient intervenors. Finally, we note that appellant has not alleged that he has an independent interest at stake in these proceedings.
[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by apointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.