Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Housing and Redevelopment Authority
in and for the City of Richfield, petitioner,
Daniel Adelmann, Trustee of the
Robert F. Adelmann Trust, et al.,
Filed March 10, 1998
Hennepin County District Court
File No. CD2364
John M. LeFevre, Corrine H. Thomson, Karen R. Cole, Kennedy & Graven, Chartered, 470 Pillsbury Center, 200 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
William S. Rosen, Daniel N. Rosen, Rosen & Rosen, P.L.L.P., 30 East Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.
*Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.
Appellant challenges the trial court's denial of its motion to dismiss respondents' appeal from condemnation awards in an eminent domain proceeding for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm.
In August 1996, HRA served notice of filing of awards and notice of appeal from the condemnation award on the attorney for the owners of Parcel 2, respondents Kevin and Deborah Louis, but not on the Louises individually. In September, the Louises served notice of appeal from their condemnation award on HRA's attorneys and the City of Richfield, but not on HRA individually. Along with the owners of Parcels 1, 3, 9-19, and 21, the Louises moved for dismissal of HRA's appeal from condemnation awards, asserting that the court was divested of subject matter jurisdiction due to HRA's failure to comply with the statutory notice requirements. The trial court granted dismissal of HRA's appeal from the condemnation awards and HRA appealed to this court. We affirmed the trial court's decision in Housing & Redev. Auth. v. Adelmann, No. C2-97-980 (Jan. 20, 1998).
Respondent Lula Kerssen, owner of Parcel 22, filed an appeal from her condemnation award in August 1996, serving notice on HRA's attorneys and the City of Richfield, but not on HRA individually. HRA subsequently filed an appeal from awards as to Parcel 22.
This court is not bound by, and need not give deference to, a trial court's decision on a purely legal issue. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984). On appeal, the construction of a statue is subject to de novo review. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985).
"The notice requirements for an appeal from a Commissioners' award are jurisdictional in nature." In re Condemnation by Hous. & Redev. Auth. v. Suh, 553 N.W.2d 115, 117 (Minn. App. 1996) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Nov. 20, 1996). Noncompliance with the statutory requirements divests the district court of jurisdiction over the appeal. Id.
1. Respondents' Notice Requirements
HRA contends that the trial court erred by "refusing to consistently apply its prior decision that strict compliance with Minn. Stat. § 117.115 is a jurisdictional prerequisite for an appeal brought under Minn. Stat. § 117.145."
On its face, the statutory notice requirements under Minn. Stat. § 117.145 (1996) are different for HRA, the petitioner, from the requirements for the respondents. HRA's notice requirements for appealing an award, as set forth in Minn. Stat. § 117.145, hinge on the parties HRA was required to notify pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.115, subd. 2 (1996). Subdivision 2 requires, inter alia, that within ten days after the filing of the report of commissioners, the petitioner must notify each respondent and each respondent's attorney, by mail, of the filing of the report. Section 117.145, which sets forth the notice provisions for appeals from condemnation awards, requires notices to be mailed to "all respondents and all other parties to the proceeding having an interest * * * who are shown in the petitioner's affidavit of mailing, required by section 117.115, subdivision 2." Thus, HRA, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.115, subd. 2, was required to serve notice of the filing of the report on respondents and their attorneys. Because respondents and their attorneys were named in HRA's affidavit of service under section 117.115, HRA was required to serve notice of appeal from awards on both of these groups. However, as to respondents, Minn. Stat. § 117.115 does not apply and there is no similar requirement that they serve notice of appeal on petitioner HRA and HRA's attorney.
Respondents complied with the statutory notice requirements of Minn. Stat. § 117.145 by serving notice of their appeal from awards on HRA's attorneys and the City of Richfield, parties shown in HRA's affidavit of mailing, and we are bound to give effect to the statute's plain meaning. Judd v. State by Humphrey, 488 N.W.2d 843, 845 (Minn. App. 1992) (if statute's language is clear and free from ambiguity, courts' duty is to give effect to statute's plain meaning).
Our construction of the statute is buttressed by its legislative history. Prior to the 1995 amendment of Minn. Stat. § 117.145, any party appealing a commissioner's award was required to mail a copy of notice "to all parties of record having an interest in lands described in the appeal." Minn. Stat. § 117.145 (1994). This language was amended due to confusion as to who was included in all parties with any recorded interest. See Independent Sch. Dist. No. 194 Lakeville v. Tollefson Dev., 506 N.W.2d 346, 347-48 (Minn. App. 1993) (focusing on need for notice of appeal to be mailed to all condemnees, even though those parties' interests might not be adversely affected), review denied (Minn. Nov. 16, 1993). Minn. Stat. § 117.145, as amended, definitively describes who an appealing party must notify: parties "shown in the petitioner's affidavit."
The rules of procedure, which ordinarily require service on a represented party's attorney rather than on a party individually, further support our holding. Minn. R. Civ. P. 5.02. Although the rules do not apply to condemnation proceedings insofar as Minn. Stat. chapter 117 is inconsistent with the rules, they do apply where no inconsistency exists. Minn. R. Civ. P. 81.01(a) & App. A. Thus, unlike the notice requirements set forth for petitioners where an inconsistency exists, Minn. Stat. § 117.145 does not provide that respondents must serve notice on the condemning authority individually. Accordingly, the general rule of serving notice on a represented party's attorney applies.
Our construction of the statute is also supported by the public policy of protecting condemnees and other non-government parties having an interest in the condemned property. See Electric Short Line Terminal Co. v. City of Minneapolis, 242 Minn. 1, 7, 64 N.W.2d 149, 153 (1954) (notice required in eminent domain proceedings to apprise owner of invisible appropriation of property to future public use meant to fairly forewarn owner that he will lose his constitutional right to compensation if he fails to act within prescribed period).
Respondents also correctly observe that, if they were required to serve HRA individually, they satisfied the requirement by serving the City of Richfield. HRA is designated as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority in and for the City of Richfield. HRA argues that the City of Richfield and HRA are two separate legal entities, pointing to the rules of procedure that set forth distinct service requirements for cities and "non-enumerated" public bodies. Minn. R. Civ. P. 4.03(e)(2) (service on cities) and 4.03(e)(5) (service on non-enumerated public bodies).
In the context of tort law, a city and its housing authority are viewed as separate legal entities. See Schultz v. Ruiz, 281 Minn. 281, 285-86, 161 N.W.2d 537, 541 (1968) (holding that, because city and housing authority were separate entities, notice-of-claim requirement as to city was not applicable to action against municipal housing and redevelopment authority). But in eminent domain proceedings, the limited case law suggests a different result. See Board of Water Comm'rs v. Roselawn Cemetery, 138 Minn. 458, 461, 165 N.W. 279, 280 (1917) (holding that board of water commissioners was not a separate entity, but mere agency or department of city provided for and governed by city charter; its authority to exercise power of eminent domain rested upon city's charter). On this record, we conclude that HRA and the City of Richfield are not separate entities for the purposes of these eminent domain proceedings.
HRA asserts that the Louises' "cross-appeal" from the award on Parcel 2 is dependent on its appeal; if HRA's appeal is dismissed, then the Louises' cross-appeal must be dismissed as untimely because a defective appeal of a condemnation award cannot be the basis for extending the time period for filing other appeals from awards.
The statutory language does not support HRA's assertion. Minn. Stat. § 117.145 provides that, "[i]f any notice of appeal is filed, any other party may appeal within 50 days from the date that the report was filed." If "any other party," which would include another condemnee, improperly files an appeal within the 40-day time limit, HRA's interpretation would result in automatic dismissal of all other appeals, a result we find absurd. See Minn. Stat. § 645.17(1) (1996) (providing presumption that legislature does not intend absurd results).
Moreover, HRA's reliance on State by Mattson v. Goins, 286 Minn. 54, 174 N.W.2d 231 (1970), for the proposition that an appealing party can only be assured that its appeal will be heard if it files the appeal within 40 days is misplaced. The facts in Goins can be distinguished. In Goins, the condemning authority appealed a condemnation award but the owner never filed an appeal. Id. at 56, 174 N.W.2d at 232. When the condemning authority sought to dismiss its appeal voluntarily, the property owner challenged the dismissal. Id. at 56, 174 N.W.2d at 233. In this context, the court held that the property owner could not prevent HRA's dismissal and the property owner's right to appeal was lost. Id. at 58-61, 174 N.W.2d at 234-35. Here, respondents filed a valid appeal in compliance with the 50-day time limit. Unlike the condemnee in Goins, the Louises' appeal is not dependent on HRA's appeal. Respondent fails to cite authority to sustain its assertion that if an initial action is dismissed then the cross-appeal is automatically dismissed.