• April 13, 2012

The facts of Marianne Richardson v. Blue Star Plumbing are sad.  In a nutshell, Laddy and Ramona Cusick bought a Big Lake home out of foreclosure, were warned in emphatic terms that there was a danger due to an uncapped natural gas line, but they did nothing, and, when Marianne Richardson was helping move the Cusicks into the property, there was an expolosion and Ms. Richardson and Ms. Cusick were hurt.

Richardson brought a complaint against Blue Star, the plumbing company that had done the winterization of the foreclosed property and dewinterization the very day before the explosion, but failed to notice or repair the gas leak apparently.

Blue Star, in turn, sued Edina Realty, on the theory that it owned the home after the foreclosure, knew or should have known about the danger, and failed to take the steps that it could have to remedy the problem and avoid the disaster.

Sherburne County Sr. Judge Karla F. Hancock did not like Blue Star’s claim against Edina Realty.  She sanctioned Blue Star’s lawyers and Murnane Brandt, their law firm, finding their claim against Edina Realty to be “frivolous” and
not objectively reasonable.”   

Recognizing that trial court sanctions are reviewed on a deferential “abuse of discretion” standard, the Minnesota Court of Appeals nevertheless reversed the trial court’s sanction of the Blue Star lawyers.

It is not clear from the Court of Appeals decision what, if anything, Blue Star’s lawyers may have done to trigger the wrath of the trial court other than making a legal arguments that the trial court rejected.  Thankfully, it is rare that this, alone, moves Minnesota courts to sanction lawyers because, in many cases, one side or another loses.

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