STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Johnson & Bannon,
Schneider Law Firm,
Mack & Daby,
Mitchell McKay, et al.,
Filed June 29, 1999
Chippewa County District Court
File No. CX95457
Johnson & Bannon, Post Office Box 1334, Willmar, MN 56201 (respondent)
Schneider Law Firm, Post Office Box 776, Willmar, MN 56201 (respondent)
Mack & Daby, Post Office Box 302, New London, MN 56273 (respondent)
John R. Rodenberg, Berens, Rodenberg & O'Connor, Chtd., 519 Center Street, Post Office Box 428, New Ulm, MN 56073-0428 (for respondents Mitchell McKay, et al.)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Appellant challenges denial of a motion to vacate a stipulation for settlement and judgment, contending he was incompetent when he entered the settlement, and the settlement was a product of undue influence and fraud. We affirm.
On the day set for trial, the Alvarados appeared with newly-acquired counsel and entered a stipulation for settlement into the record, resolving their claims for a total of $100,000, less third-party attorney liens. The district court specifically questioned Alejandro as to whether he had discussed and understood the settlement. Based on the stipulation for settlement and Alejandro's assertion that he understood it, the district court ordered judgment of dismissal. Alejandro now appeals from the district court's denial of his motion for vacation of the judgment.
"[V]acating a stipulation of settlement rests largely within the discretion of the trial court, and the court's action in that regard will not be reversed unless it is shown that the court acted in such an arbitrary manner as to frustrate justice."
Id. (quoting Myers v. Fecker Co., 312 Minn. 469, 474, 252 N.W.2d 595, 599 (1977)).
The district court has authority to relieve a party from a judgment pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02. Rule 60.02 authorizes a court to grant relief from judgment based on various grounds, including "(a) [m]istake, * * * (c) [f]raud * * * ; or (f) [a]ny other reason justifying relief." Whether to grant such relief is a decision for the district court that will not be reversed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion. Midway Nat'l Bank v. Bollmeier, 474 N.W.2d 335, 338-39 (Minn. 1991).
Alejandro argues that he was incompetent at the time of settlement due to his medical condition. As evidence of his incompetence, Alejandro relies on certain statements and veterans' records. But, since these records were not before the district court, they are not part of the record on review. See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.01 (papers filed in trial court constitute record on appeal in all cases). Alejandro also attempts to rely on a guardianship order as evidence of his incompetence. But the district court granted the guardianship without any finding of incompetence. Indeed, the level of Alejandro's mental competency was contested in the underlying action. Our review of the record reveals little support for Alejandro's asserted incompetence.
Alejandro argues that the stipulation for settlement was a product of fraud and mistake. He suggests his wife mistakenly advised him to enter the settlement after the pretrial hearing. He asserts he was under the undue influence of his wife at the time he signed the stipulation for settlement. The record reveals no supporting evidence. Alejandro appeared in court on the day of trial for the express purpose of entering the stipulation for settlement. By their own accounts, the Alvarados retained an attorney for the sole purpose of settlement. When Alejandro first appeared, his wife was not with him and he was prepared to enter into the stipulation of settlement in her absence. Our review of the record reveals no evidentiary support for Alejandro's contention of fraud and mistake.
In sum, a review of the record reveals no evidence of fraud or undue influence, and little evidence of Alejandro's mental incompetence. The transcript reveals that Alejandro indicated that he had reviewed, signed, and understood the stipulation for settlement. Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to vacate the settlement and judgment.