This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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




Erin Hilligan,

o/b/o Health East Bethesda

Lutheran Care Center, petitioner,



Michael Schulte,


Filed August 31, 1999


Thoreen, Judge[*]

Dakota County District Court

File No. C7-98-2968

James E. Blaney, Moore, Costello & Hart, P.L.L.P., 1400 Norwest Center, 55 E. Fifth St., St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Rachael Goldberger, Jerry Strauss, Strauss & Associates, 250 Second Ave. S., Ste. 145, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Thoreen, Judge.



Appellant argues the district court erred when it ruled that a corporation is a "person" entitled to seek a harassment restraining order under Minn. Stat. § 609.748 (1998) on behalf of its employees. We affirm.


The facts are undisputed. Appellant Michael Schulte is the son of Raymond Schulte, an 85-year-old man who lives at the HealthEast Bethesda Lutheran Care Center (Bethesda Lutheran). Respondent Erin Hilligan is the Administrator for Bethesda Lutheran.

On behalf of Bethesda Lutheran, Hilligan filed a petition for a harassment restraining order on November 12, 1998; a temporary restraining order was issued the same day. At trial, Michael Schulte stipulated that (1) he told Hilligan that the nursing staff taking care of his father "should be afraid" and that he was "going to get" the heads of two Bethesda Lutheran employees; (2) he wrote Hilligan identifying seven Bethesda Lutheran employees who were afraid of him and stating they "have a right to be"; and (3) on one occasion he prevented a nurse from leaving his father's room and made threatening gestures toward the nurse. Schulte agreed to the issuance of an interim harassment restraining order but reserved the right to challenge the applicability of the anti-harassment act to a corporation, such as Bethesda Lutheran.

Following the parties' submissions, the district court filed a harassment restraining order, ruling that Bethesda Lutheran is a "person" under Minn. Stat. § 609.748 (1998). The restraining order prevents Michael Schulte from having any contact with Bethesda Lutheran or any of its employees until December 4, 2000, and prohibits Michael Schulte from entering Bethesda Lutheran property.


The sole issue presented in this appeal is whether a corporation is a "person" that may petition the district court for a harassment restraining order under Minn. Stat. § 609.748 (1998). Under the statute, the district court may issue a restraining order to "[a] person who is a victim of harassment." Id., subd. 2. Harassment is defined, in part, as

repeated, intrusive, or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that are intended to adversely affect the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target.

Id., subd. 1(a)(1). The statute does not define "person."

Schulte concedes that this court's decision in Dayton Hudson Corp. v. Johnson, 528 N.W.2d 260, 262 (Minn. App. 1995), establishes that a corporation is a "person" that may petition the district court for a harassment restraining order under Minn. Stat. § 609.748. In that case, Dayton Hudson Corporation (Dayton's) filed a petition for a harassment restraining order against an individual who, while trying to steal store merchandise on 12 separate occasions, kicked, hit, and severely bit several Dayton's employees. Dayton Hudson, 528 N.W.2d at 261. This court noted that the legislature "generally defines person to include `bodies politic and corporate.'" Id. at 262 (quoting Minn. Stat. § 645.44, subd. 7 (1994)).[1] The court further observed that the legislature "mandates application of this definition to all Minnesota statutes or legislative acts, unless another intention clearly appears." Id. (citing Minn. Stat. § 645.44, subd. 1 (1994)). Noting that a reviewing court presumes the legislature understood the effect of its words, the court held that

[b]ecause the legislature did not expressly define the term person in Minn. Stat. § 609.748, we use the legislature's general definition to determine that a corporation is a person under this statute.


Schulte attempts to distinguish Dayton Hudson, arguing that the case is factually distinguishable because there are no accusations that he actually hurt or attempted to hurt anyone at Bethesda Lutheran. This argument, however, does nothing to distinguish the case on the legal issue of whether a corporation may petition under Minn. Stat. § 609.748 for a harassment restraining order. The decision in Dayton Hudson clearly and unequivocally establishes that a corporation is a person under Minn. Stat. § 609.748 and may petition the district court for a harassment restraining order.

Similarly, under the statute, actual or attempted acts of physical violence are not required. The facts to which Schulte stipulated satisfy the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 609.748 and do not render this case factually or legally distinguishable from the decision in Dayton Hudson.

Schulte further argues that allowing the restraining order on behalf of Bethesda Lutheran to stand leads to an absurd result because it prevents him from visiting his father, a result not intended by the legislature. See Minn. Stat. § 645.17(1) (1998) (legislature does not intend absurd result). Schulte's argument misinterprets the effect of the restraining order. The restraining order does not prevent him from visiting his father. It simply prohibits Schulte from having contact with Bethesda Lutheran employees and entering Bethesda Lutheran property. Schulte concedes that he is free to visit with his father off Bethesda Lutheran property. There is no absurd result in this case.

The public policy arguments articulated in Dayton Hudson also apply equally well to the present case. It is axiomatic that Bethesda Lutheran has a duty to provide a safe work environment for its employees and staff and to exercise reasonable care for the safety of the home's residents. As a health care provider, the duty of care Bethesda Lutheran owes to its clients is, arguably, greater than the duty the retailer in Dayton Hudson owed to its patrons. Also, allowing Bethesda Lutheran to petition the district court on behalf of its employees is a more economical use of the court's resources than requiring each individual affected to file a petition. Public policy supports the district court's decision in this case.


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

[1] The language of Minn. Stat. § 645.44 (1998) is identical to the statutory language cited by the Dayton Hudson court.