This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




Ramon Belanger, et al.,



City of Long Lake,


Filed December 1, 1998


Harten, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 970022767

Christopher J. Dietzen, James M. Susag, Larkin, Hoffman, Daly & Lindgren, Ltd., 1500 Norwest Financial Center, 7900 Xerxes Avenue South, Bloomington, MN 55431 (for appellant)

Arlo H. Vande Vegte, Attorney at Law, 1850 West Wayzata Blvd., P.O. Box 39, Long Lake, MN 55356 (for respondents)

Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Harten, Judge.



Appellant city challenges the denial of its motion to dismiss an action brought by respondents, 26 property owners, because respondents challenged special assessments of their properties with a collective complaint instead of individual complaints. Because we see no statutory bar to respondents proceeding collectively, we affirm.


Appellant City of Long Lake proposed special assessments of 15 properties. Despite the objections of respondents, the 26 owners of the properties, the special assessments were adopted.

Respondents collectively served and filed a notice of judicial appeal. Six months later, appellant moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction because respondents had filed a joint appeal rather than 15 individual appeals. The district court denied the motion; this appeal resulted.


This appeal is based on construction of a statute and the Rules of Civil Procedure. Statutory construction is clearly a question of law and thus fully reviewable by an appellate court. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985).

Minn. R. Civ. P. 20.01 provides that:

All persons may join in one action as plaintiffs if they assert any right to relief, jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences and if any question of fact or law common to all these persons will arise in the action.

The Rules of Civil Procedure provide not only the right to join in an action but also a safeguard against erroneous joinder.

Misjoinder of parties is not ground for dismissal of an action. Parties may be dropped or added by order of the court on motion of any party or upon the court's own initiative at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just.

Minn. R. Civ. P. 21. These rules were adopted in 1951, but Minnesota law permitted joinder even before their adoption.

Whether the source of power for the exercise of discretion by the trial court in adding additional parties to pending litigation is statutory or inherent, the problem of joinder should be resolved by a consideration of the public and judicial interest in the administration of justice, through economy of litigation but without prejudice to the parties, to the end that the determination of the principal claims of the parties to the action shall be full and complete.

Schau v. Buss, 209 Minn. 99, 99, 295 N.W. 910, 910 (1940). "[T]he rule as to allowable joinder should be broad and flexible." Id. at 104, 195 N.W. at 912. Respondents relied on the rules and the long tradition of permissive joinder in filing their joint complaint; as Minn. R. Civ. P. 20.01 requires, they all assert a right to relief arising out of appellant's decision to assess their properties and a common question of fact or law arises in challenging the assessments. Notwithstanding Minn. R. Civ. P. 21 providing that "[m]isjoinder of parties is not ground for dismissal of an action," appellant seeks dismissal of respondents' action because of misjoinder. Appellant relies on Minn. R. Civ. P. 81.02, stating that the rules of civil procedure "do not supersede the provisions of statutes relating to appeals to the district courts," to argue that Rules 20.01 and 21 are superseded by Minn. Stat. § 429.081 (1996), which provides:

Within 30 days after the adoption of the assessment, any person aggrieved * * * may appeal to the district court by serving a notice upon the mayor or clerk of the municipality.

Appellant interprets "any person aggrieved * * * may appeal * * * by serving a notice" to mean that each person aggrieved must serve a separate notice.[1]

Appellant's interpretation ignores Minn. Stat. § 645.08 (1996), providing that:

In construing the statutes of this state, the following canons of interpretation are to govern, unless their observance would involve a construction inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature, or repugnant to the context of the statute:

* * * *

(2) The singular includes the plural; and the plural, the singular * * *.

Moreover, the legislature is presumed to be aware of this provision. In re Proposal by U.S. West Communications, 558 N.W.2d 777, 780-81 (Minn. App. 1997). U.S. West construed a statute requiring providers of telephone services to price a promoted service above incremental cost of "the service" to mean that the aggregate price for all promotional services must remain above aggregate cost, noting that this construction does not appear inconsistent with the legislature's intent or repugnant to the statute's context. Id. U.S. West specifically rejected an argument analogous to appellant's argument, interpreting the statute as requiring each promoted service to be priced above its own incremental cost. Id.

Construing Minn. Stat. § 429.081 in accord with this canon, the word "person" may be read as "persons" thus, "any person[s] aggrieved * * * may appeal * * * by serving a notice * * *." We see nothing either inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature or repugnant to the context of the statute in this construction.[2] Moreover, this construction brings the statute into harmony with Minn. R. Civ. P. 20.01, permitting joinder, and Minn. R. Civ. P. 21, stating that misjoinder is not grounds for dismissal. Both the presumption that the legislature was aware that the singular can be taken to mean the plural, U.S. West, 558 N.W.2d at 780-81, and the effectuating of the legislature's intent as the object of all statutory construction, Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (1996), support such a construction.

Appellant cites Village of Edina v. Joseph, 264 Minn. 84, 94, 119 N.W.2d 809, 816 (1962), for the proposition that "[the] requirements [of statutes allowing appeals from assessments against property] must be strictly complied with." Appellant presents no authority, however, for the implication that strict compliance justifies ignoring the canons of construction and the rules of civil procedure.

Appellant also relies on Village of Edina to argue that the rules of civil procedure do not supersede statutes governing appeals from property assessments. But Village of Edina involved a class action filed by two property owners "in their own behalf and purportedly in behalf of all abutting property owners affected by the assessment" and another 65 owners of abutting property who "filed a motion to intervene in the appeal * * * nearly 2 years later." Id. at 87, 119 N.W.2d at 812. The rules sought to be invoked were those governing class actions and intervention. The court held that the property owners did not meet the standard for bringing a class action because they were identifiable, had received notice, and had the right to appeal; it also held that the rule governing intervention did not operate to extend the statutory time to appeal.

The circumstance of ownership of abutting properties affected by the assessment does not give owners the right to institute a class action, nor does it permit any aggrieved party to intervene after he has let the time for appeal expire."

Id. at 101, 119 N.W.2d at 820. Here, respondents meet the standard for joinder and their notice was timely. Appellant's reliance on Village of Edina is misplaced.

Respondents were properly joined in their appeal of the assessments, and Minn. R. Civ. P. 21 provides that even misjoinder is not grounds for dismissal.


[1] While appellant argues that there should have been 15 notices (one for each property) rather than 26 notices (one for each owner), its argument would actually require every individual owner, as "any aggrieved person," to file a separate notice.

[2] Nor would we see anything inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature or repugnant to the context of the statute in construing it to mean: any persons aggrieved may appeal by serving notices. We conclude that both individual notice and collective notice are permitted.