Re:Litigation, August 2011

08/16/2011 / Real Estate Litigation Practice Group





Yes Virginia, There Is A Variance
By Tamara O'Neill Moreland

Zoning variances are exceptions from zoning regulations, allowing property owners to use property in a desired manner even if the use is technically prohibited by local zoning ordinances.  For over twenty years, municipalities were given considerable flexibility to grant zoning variances.  A year ago this June, that latitude was substantially restricted by the Minnesota Supreme Court’s interpretation of Minn. Stat. § 462.357 in Krummenacher v. City of Minnetonka.  This May, the Governor signed a bill amending Minn. Stat. § 462.357 to restore municipal authority to grant variances. Read more...

Pesticide Drift May Give Rise to Claims of Trespass, Nuisance and Negligence Per Se When Organic Crops Are Contaminated
By Jennifer Singleton*

Minnesota’s organic farmers may now have greater protection against neighboring farmers’ pesticide use.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently held that when chemical pesticides drift from one farm to another, the resulting damage may provide a basis for claims of trespass, nuisance and negligence.  The decision reverses the lower court’s determinations that Minnesota does not recognize trespass by particulate matter and that the damages necessary to sustain causes of action for negligence and nuisance cannot exist unless pesticide contamination exceeds the five percent limit established by National Organic Program (NOP) regulations.  With organic farming becoming increasingly widespread and profitable, this decision may have far-reaching implications for those involved in Minnesota’s agriculture industry. Read more...

*Jennifer Singleton is a law clerk in Larkin Hoffman’s Real Estate Litigation Practice Group.  She is currently a third year student at the University of Minnesota Law School.


News and Notes

  • After battling the Minnesota Department of Transportation for nearly eight years in his attempt to obtain just compensation for land that was taken for a highway project, a property owner turned to Larkin Hoffman for litigation support.  The Larkin Hoffman team, led by Gary Van Cleve and Rob Stefonowicz, secured a jury verdict of more than $7.9 million against the Minnesota Department of Transportation after a two-week trial.  The client chose to work with Larkin Hoffman after Van Cleve and Stefonowicz had secured a separate multi-million dollar result for the same client against the City of Rochester.
  • When a township brought a lawsuit seeking, among other things, a temporary restraining order and injunction to shutdown a $29 million construction project for a new school, the School District turned to Larkin Hoffman.  The team of Mike Mergens and Peder Larson successfully defended the School District against the TRO and injunction.  After defeating the preliminary attempts to stop the construction, the Larkin Hoffman team obtained a complete dismissal of the lawsuit.    
  • Tamara O’Neill Moreland was elected to serve on Larkin Hoffman’s Board of Directors.
  • Gary Van Cleve was selected for inclusion in the 2011 edition of Minnesota Super Lawyers.®
  • Tamara O'Neill Moreland and Michael Mergens have been named to the 2011 Rising Stars® list by Super Lawyers Magazine. Rising Stars are nominated by their peers in the legal community. Rising Stars are attorneys 40 years or younger, or who have been in practice 10 years or less. The selected attorneys are featured in Super Lawyers, Twin Cities Business and Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine. Up to 2.5 percent of the lawyers in Minnesota are listed as Rising Stars.
  • Rob Stefonowicz was elected Vice-Chair of the Eminent Domain Section of the Hennepin County Bar Association (HCBA). His term will begin in September 2011 and continue through the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
  • Tamara O’Neill Moreland has been selected to serve on the Gender Fairness Committee, a subcommittee of the Minnesota Judicial Council Committee for Equality and Justice. Established on June 10, 2010, the Committee for Equality and Justice was formed to advance the Judicial Branch's efforts to eliminate from court operations bias that is based on race, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, and any other status protected by law.

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