Kastner v. Dalton Development, Inc., 38889

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Citation122 N.W.2d 183,265 Minn. 511
Docket NumberNo. 38889,38889
PartiesAlbert H. KASTNER, Appellant, v. DALTON DEVELOPMENT, INC., Respondent.
Decision Date07 June 1963

Page 183

122 N.W.2d 183
265 Minn. 511
Albert H. KASTNER, Appellant,
No. 38889.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
June 7, 1963.

Page 184

Syllabus by the Court

[265 MINN 511] 1. While an order denying a motion to amend findings is not appealable, whether or not the motion includes an alternative motion for a new trial, the error claimed is nonetheless reviewable when properly presented on an appeal from an appealable order or judgment.

2. A finding that the optionor of a contract granting an option to purchase certain land was without notice of an assignment of such contract by the optionee supports the conclusion that, as to such optionor, the assignment had no effect, and valid defenses and equities which arose between the original parties subsequent to the assignment but prior to notice to him inured to the benefit of the optionor. Held, plaintiff, as assignee of an option contract of which assignment the [265 MINN 512] optionor had no notice, must stand in the place of his assignor in determining whether or not such optionor was in breach of contract.

3. The interpretation placed upon a contract by the parties themselves is to be considered by the court, and is entitled to great, if not controlling, influence in ascertaining their understanding of its terms.

4. To be effectual, election to exercise an option must be unequivocal, unambiguous, and according to the terms of the option.

5. A finding that there was failure to exercise the option is sustained by the evidence where it is shown that the optionee first attempted to exercise only part of

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the option, and where the parties thereupon agreed that the option contract itself was not divisible; where the optionee next attempted to exercise the option by letter, but misdescribed the land upon which the option was intended to be exercised; and where at the time the optionee last attempted to exercise the option, it had been placed in bankruptcy by a creditors' petition, and the optionor was therefore justified in refusing to deal with the optionee.

Thomas, King, Daubney, Swenson & Collatz, St. Paul, for appellant.

Vogel, Lemmons & Lenzmeier, St. Paul, for respondent.

FRANK T. GALLAGHER, Commissioner.

Appeal from an order of the district court denying plaintiff's motion for amended findings or for a new trial.

At the outset defendant contends that this appeal is limited in legal effect to a consideration of the order denying a motion for a new trial. It is true that an order denying a motion to amend findings is not appealable,[265 MINN 513] whether or not the motion includes an alternative motion for a new trial, but the error claimed is reviewable when properly presented on an appeal from an appealable order or judgment. Donarski v. Lardy, 251 Minn. 358, 88 N.W.2d 7. On the merits, however, review is limited to a determination of whether the findings are supported by the evidence. Frisbie v. Frisbie, 226 Minn. 435, 33 N.W.2d 23.

The facts giving rise to the issues raised on the merits are these. Sometime prior to September 1960, Shuster, Inc., (hereafter referred to as Shuster) a general contractor, and defendant, Dalton Development, Inc., (hereafter referred to as Dalton) a corporation formed for the purpose of acquiring and developing land, entered into an agreement whereby the former acquired an option to purchase some lots in Dalton Park, land then owned by Dalton. In September 1960, Shuster and Dalton entered into a second option agreement whereby Dalton granted to Shuster an option on Lots 3, 4, 5, and 6, Block 7; Lot 1, Block 1; and Lots 1 to 18, Block 6, Dalton Park Addition, which option was to run until May 1, 1961. This agreement was made in consideration of relinquishment by Shuster of the option previously granted by Dalton. The agreement of September 1960 provided for payment by Shuster of a purchase price of $200 per lot. Dalton agreed to furnish an abstract showing good and marketable title and to convey by limited warranty deed.

Before September 1960, Shuster had contracted work to be done on Lots 3 and 4, Block 7, Dalton Park, consisting of excavation and construction of basements for homes to be erected there. This work was commenced on May 5, 1960, and completed by May 16, 1960. As a result, the contractors performing such work acquired mechanics liens on the two lots and on August 15, 1960, one of them filed suits for foreclosure, naming both Dalton and Shuster defendants. These actions were pending when Dalton and Shuster entered into the option agreement in September 1960 and account for incorporation of the following provision in the agreement:

'Further, the second party agrees to deliver a clear title by limited Warranty Deed and Abstract of title on any lots to purchased; Said Lots shall be subject to the rights of third parties, which rights have accrued [265 MINN 514] or shall be accrued by acts of first party hereto and shall be subject to lien rights for any improvements or alterations made thereto.' (Italics supplied.)

Shortly after commencement of the foreclosure actions, demand was made upon Andrew Shuster, president of Shuster, by Dalton's attorney, Richard Vogel, for discharge of the liens. Mr. Vogel, who acted as attorney for defendant throughout the

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transactions involved here, testified at the trial that he had a conversation with Mr. Shuster, who advised him that he would take the lots off Dalton's hands; that the liens were for a reasonable amount; and that there was no defense to them. Vogel further testified that liens were also developing on other property of Shuster and that the basements on Lots 3 and 4 were not capped, which was necessary in order to preserve the value of the improvements from destruction by the winter frost. For these reasons, the lots were conveyed sometime in November 1960 to grantees designated by the lien claimants in exchange for a release of Dalton from any personal liability arising out of the mechanics liens. 1

On November 18, 1960, Shuster assigned all of its rights under the option agreement of September 1960 to plaintiff in consideration of his payment of $100 per lot, or a total of $2,300. Concurrently, an attempt was made to exercise the option. Mr. Shuster wrote Dalton purporting to exercise the option on five of the lots and requesting the abstracts of title to be sent to Shuster's attorney, John G. Bouthilet. Dalton turned the letter over to Vogel. Bouthilet...

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11 cases
  • Kimberly-Clark Corp. v. Commissioner of Revenue, 8670-R
    • United States
    • Tax Court of Minnesota
    • June 19, 2015
    ...parties' interpretation of the [agreement's] language must control in determining their understanding”); Kastner v. Dalton Dev., Inc., 265 Minn. 511, 517, 122 N.W.2d 183, 187 (1963) (where the parties had agreed “that the option [to purchase] must be exercised on the entire 23 lots, ” the c......
  • American Mut. Liability Ins. Co. v. Reed Cleaners, s. 38806
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • June 7, 1963
    ...employer thereby acquires such rights and such rights only as were at the time vested in the employe; nothing more, and nothing less.' [265 Minn. 511] Since we hold that the plaintiff's action was one of statutory subrogation to the rights of its insured's employee against the defendants, a......
  • Koch v. Han-Shire Investments, Inc., HAN-SHIRE
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • February 4, 1966
    ...411, 16 N.W.2d 319; Cut Price Super Markets v. Kingpin Foods, Inc., 256 Minn. 339, 98 N.W.2d 257; Kastner v. Dalton Development, Inc., 265 Minn. 511, 122 N.W.2d 183; 4 Williston, Contracts (3 ed.) § 623. It is unnecessary to emphasize again that the agreements imposed liability for the enti......
  • Nafstad v. Merchant, 45151
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • April 11, 1975
    ...20 Dunnell, Dig. (3 ed.) § 10016. 2 Brachmann v. Netzinger, 293 Minn. 405, 196 N.W.2d 616 (1972); Kastner v. Dalton Development, Inc., 265 Minn. 511, 122 N.W.2d 183 (1963); Johnson v. Fitzke, 234 Minn. 216, 48 N.W.2d 37...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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