Strei v. Blaine, Civil No. 12–1095 (JRT/LIB).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
Writing for the CourtJOHN R. TUNHEIM
Citation996 F.Supp.2d 763
PartiesNathan STREI, Plaintiff, v. Deputy Scot BLAINE, Investigator John McArthur, Officer Merlin Deegan, Nichole Myree Hensen, Joseph Merz, County of Becker, and Kevin Miller, Defendants.
Decision Date12 February 2014
Docket NumberCivil No. 12–1095 (JRT/LIB).

996 F.Supp.2d 763

Nathan STREI, Plaintiff,
v.
Deputy Scot BLAINE, Investigator John McArthur, Officer Merlin Deegan, Nichole Myree Hensen, Joseph Merz, County of Becker, and Kevin Miller, Defendants.

Civil No. 12–1095 (JRT/LIB).

United States District Court,
D. Minnesota.

Feb. 12, 2014.


[996 F.Supp.2d 770]


Jordan S. Kushner, Law Office of Jordan S. Kushner, Minneapolis, MN, for plaintiff.

Leonard J. Schweich and Vicki A. Hruby, Jardine Logan & O'Brien PLLP, Lake Elmo, MN, for defendants Scot Blaine, County of Becker, and Kevin Miller.


Richard M. Dahl, Madigan Dahl & Harlan, PA, Minneapolis, MN; and Lonnie F. Bryan, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, for defendants John McArthur and Merlin Deegan.

C. Nicholas Vogel, Vogel Law Firm, Fargo, ND, for defendants Nichole Myree Hensen and Joseph Merz.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN R. TUNHEIM, District Judge.

This case arises out of the November 5, 2011 arrest of Plaintiff Nathan Strei at a property Strei had purchased with his ex-girlfriend, Defendant Nichole Hensen. While they were in a relationship the couple jointly purchased the property, but Strei later quitclaimed the property to Hensen. After the couple terminated their relationship, Strei continued to reside at the property against Hensen's wishes. Hensen unsuccessfully attempted to evict Strei by filing an action in Becker County District Court pursuant to Minnesota's landlord-tenant law. Hensen later contacted Defendant Deputy Scot Blaine at the Becker County Sheriff's Department for advice on how to remove Strei from the property. Blaine in turn contacted Defendant Assistant Becker County Attorney Kevin Miller, who advised Blaine based on the documents he received from Hensen that Strei was committing the crime of misdemeanor trespass by remaining on the property without Hensen's permission. Blaine forwarded this determination to Defendants White Earth Police Investigator McArthur and Officer Merlin Deegan. Several days later Hensen and her boyfriend Defendant Joseph Merz called the Becker County Sheriff's office to inform them that Strei was again at the property. Deegan was dispatched to the scene and arrested Strei for misdemeanor trespassing. The charges were later dropped. In a quiet title action filed by Hensen in Becker County District Court after Strei's arrest, the court determined that Hensen had sole ownership of the property and Strei had no right to or interest in the property.

Strei brings claims against all players in this drama, alleging violations of his federal constitutional rights as well as a host of

[996 F.Supp.2d 771]

common law tort claims arising out of the circumstances surrounding his arrest. The crux of most of Strei's claims is his contention that his arrest was not supported by probable cause because the dismissal of the original eviction action against him impliedly meant that he had a right to be on the property and could not be guilty of trespassing. Defendants have moved for dismissal or summary judgment on all of Strei's claims. Additionally, Strei moves for dismissal or in the alternative, summary judgment on Hensen's counterclaim for damages caused by his occupancy of the property without her permission. The Court will grant the motion to dismiss the common law tort claims against Deegan and McArthur, because Strei has failed to comply with the administrative requirements of the Federal Tort Claims Act. Additionally, because Strei's arrest was supported by probable cause and a state court has determined that Strei had no ownership interest in the property, no genuine issue of fact remains regarding any of the Defendants' liability, and the Court will grant Defendants' motions for summary judgment in their entirety. Finally, the Court finds that Hensen has alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for trespass, and will therefore deny Strei's motion.

BACKGROUND
I. PURCHASE OF THE CABIN

In August 2008, Hensen and Strei were involved in a romantic relationship. (Second Aff. of Vicki A. Hruby, Ex. 17 (Dep. of Nathan Strei (“Strei Dep. A”) 17:1–3, 23:8–16), July 31, 2013, Docket No. 74.) 1 On August 29, 2008, Hensen and Strei jointly purchased a lake cabin (“the Property,” or “the Cabin,”) located on East Jugglar Road in Becker County, Minnesota. (Second Hruby Aff., Ex. 1; id., Ex. 18 (Dep. of Nichole Hensen (“Hensen Dep. A”) 10:13–20).) The Property was conveyed by warranty deed to “Nichole M. Hensen and Nathan C. Strei” as grantees. (Second Hruby Aff., Ex. 1; Hensen Dep. A 12:8–20.) Strei and Hensen financed the purchase of the Property through a $236,000 loan from a bank and a $42,000 interest-only note from the seller. (First Aff. of Nichole Myree Hensen ¶ 2, July 26, 2013, Docket No. 68; Aff. of Richard M. Dahl, Ex. B (Dep. of Nathan Strei (“Strei Dep. B”) 166:15–23), July 31, 2013, Docket No. 81.) Additionally, Strei and Hensen each made down payments of $2,500. (Hensen Dep. A 13:10–17; Strei Dep. B 166:6–11.)

Before purchasing the Property, Strei and Hensen set up a joint account out of which to make payments on the mortgage and other costs of owning the Property. (Hensen Dep. A 12:17–25.) Hensen testified that she and Strei had a verbal understanding that they were each to contribute half of the costs associated with the Property. ( Id. 12:8–20.) Strei testified that he and Hensen discussed that Strei would not always contribute a one-half share due to his other financial obligations. (Strei Dep. B 167:4–19; Decl. of Nathan Strei, Ex. A ¶ 7, Sept. 30, 2013, Docket No. 104.)

Initially, Strei and Hensen made relatively equal contributions to the joint account. (First Hensen Aff. ¶ 3; Aff. of C. Nicholas Vogel, Ex. E (Dep. of Nichole Hensen (“Hensen Dep. B”) 154: 2–22), July 26, 2013, Docket No. 69; Strei Dep. B 167:20–23.) In December 2008, due to financial difficulties, Strei began to contribute substantially less money than Hensen. (First Hensen Aff. ¶ 4; Hensen Dep. B 154:23–155:7; see Strei Dep. A 173:23–174:1.)

[996 F.Supp.2d 772]

II. QUITCLAIM DEED

On May 19, 2010, Strei executed a quitclaim deed in Hensen's favor, conveying all of his interest in the Property to her. (Second Hruby Aff., Ex. 2; Hensen Dep. A 14:14–18; Strei Dep. A 77:10–22.) Hensen asked Strei to execute the quitclaim deed “[b]ecause he was unable to uphold his end of the purchase” and there was some concern that the Property would be subject to a lien due to issues with a mortgage on another property of Strei's. (Hensen Dep. A 15:18–16:14, 18:12–19:1, 158:12–24; see Strei Dep. B 25:23–27:20.) The quitclaim deed was recorded on May 25, 2010. (Second Hruby Aff., Ex. 2.)

Before executing the quitclaim deed, Strei and Hensen had a conversation in which Hensen indicated that she would agree to have Strei's name put back on the deed if he was able to resume contributing an equal share to the costs of the Property. (Hensen Dep. A 17:6–18:9.) Strei contends that the quitclaim deed was intended to be temporary until the mortgages on his other property were satisfied. (Strei Decl. ¶ 5, Ex. A ¶ 13, Ex. C.)

III. DISPUTE OVER STREI'S OCCUPANCY OF THE PROPERTY

Strei and Hensen's relationship began to deteriorate in the spring of 2011. Between May and July 2011 Strei was living part time at the Cabin and part time at Hensen's home in Fargo. (Hensen Dep. A 24:6–25:1.) In July Hensen “threw him out” of her Fargo home. ( Id. 22:7–23:17; Strei Dep. B 180:19–25.) Hensen changed the locks on her home and notified Strei by letter that she had removed his belongings and given them to a friend of Strei's. (Hensen Dep. A 22:7–23:20, 25:2–26:4; Strei Dep. B 181:12–15; Vogel Aff., Ex. M at 37.) After the break-up, Strei began staying at the Cabin full time. (Hensen Dep. A 26:16–18; Decl. of Jordan S. Kushner, Ex. 1 (Dep. of Nathan Strei (“Strei Dep. C”) 198:15–24), Oct. 1, 2013, Docket No. 106.)

In August 2011 Hensen paid off the seller's note on the Property and refinanced the mortgage, removing Strei from the note and mortgage documents. (Hensen Dep. B 176:4–177:5, 180:5–13; Vogel Aff., Ex. M at 47–50.) At some point Strei learned that Hensen had closed their joint account. (Strei Dep. C 200:10–14.) Strei testified that after learning he could no longer contribute to the joint account he began to make deposits into his savings account. (Strei Dep. B 201:3–24.) Strei earmarked these deposits as payments to be applied to the Property at some future time and kept track of these deposits in a personal ledger. ( Id. 202:3–17.)

In the summer of 2011 Hensen also began to take steps to have Strei removed from the Property. In July Hensen contacted the Becker County Sheriff's Department and spoke with Scot Blaine regarding her options for having Strei removed from the Property. (Hensen Dep. A 28:11–29:1.) Blaine mentioned the possibility of eviction, and recommended that Hensen contact an attorney. ( Id. 29:2–9; Dahl Aff., Ex. D (Dep. of Scot Blaine (“Blaine Dep.”) 9:19–10:25, 12:17–13:7).)

Hensen contacted an attorney, Leslie Johnson Aldrich, who sent Strei a letter requesting that he leave the Property. (Hensen Dep. A. 26:19–27:8; Strei Dep. C 196:9–11; Vogel Aff., Ex. M at 51.) The letter gave Strei “notice that should you go onto any of Nichole's real property she will call law enforcement as you are not authorized, privileged or licensed to be there” and requested that Strei “vacate the lake cabin forthwith as you have violated the terms of your agreement.” (Vogel Aff., Ex. M at 51.) Strei did not leave the Property in response to the letter.

[996 F.Supp.2d 773]

A. Eviction Action

After sending Strei the letter, Hensen's attorney brought an eviction action pursuant to Minn.Stat. § 504B.321 on Hensen's behalf against Strei. 2 (Hensen Dep. A 30:21–23; Second Hruby Aff., Ex. 5.) In the complaint, Hensen was described as the “landlord” of the Property, and indicated that she had leased the premises to Strei via an oral agreement. (Second Hruby Aff., Ex. 5.) Hensen checked a box...

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10 practice notes
  • Josephs v. Marzan, CIVIL 21-0749 (JRT/DTS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • January 5, 2022
    ...568 N.W.2d 186, 192 (Minn.Ct.App. 1997) (citing Hoppe v. Klapperich, 28 N.W.2d 780, 786 (Minn. 1947)); 10 accord Strei v. Blaine, 996 F.Supp.2d 763, 793 (D. Minn. 2014). The ulterior purpose must be something other than “the very purpose for which [the process] is intended.” Strei, 996 F.Su......
  • Josephs v. Marzan, CIVIL 21-0749 (JRT/DTS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • January 5, 2022
    ...568 N.W.2d 186, 192 (Minn.Ct.App. 1997) (citing Hoppe v. Klapperich, 28 N.W.2d 780, 786 (Minn. 1947)); 10 accord Strei v. Blaine, 996 F.Supp.2d 763, 793 (D. Minn. 2014). The ulterior purpose must be something other than “the very purpose for which [the process] is intended.” Strei, 996 F.Su......
  • US Dominion, Inc. v. MyPillow, Inc., Civil Action 1:21-cv-0445 (CJN)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • May 19, 2022
    ...Colorado law, and District law, a common-law civil-conspiracy claim does not represent a standalone tort claim. See Strei v. Blaine, 996 F.Supp.2d 763, 795 (D. Minn. 2014) (quotation omitted) (“[A] civil conspiracy claim is merely a vehicle for asserting vicarious or joint and several liabi......
  • Cent. Specialties, Inc. v. Large, 20-3027
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • November 24, 2021
    ...involves less than a complete divestment 18 F.4th 1000 of the plaintiff's possessory rights in his property.’ " Strei v. Blaine, 996 F. Supp. 2d 763, 792 (D. Minn. 2014) (citation omitted).Dispossessing includes taking the chattel from the person in possession without his consent, obtaining......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Josephs v. Marzan, CIVIL 21-0749 (JRT/DTS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • January 5, 2022
    ...568 N.W.2d 186, 192 (Minn.Ct.App. 1997) (citing Hoppe v. Klapperich, 28 N.W.2d 780, 786 (Minn. 1947)); 10 accord Strei v. Blaine, 996 F.Supp.2d 763, 793 (D. Minn. 2014). The ulterior purpose must be something other than “the very purpose for which [the process] is intended.” Strei, 996 F.Su......
  • Josephs v. Marzan, CIVIL 21-0749 (JRT/DTS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • January 5, 2022
    ...568 N.W.2d 186, 192 (Minn.Ct.App. 1997) (citing Hoppe v. Klapperich, 28 N.W.2d 780, 786 (Minn. 1947)); 10 accord Strei v. Blaine, 996 F.Supp.2d 763, 793 (D. Minn. 2014). The ulterior purpose must be something other than “the very purpose for which [the process] is intended.” Strei, 996 F.Su......
  • US Dominion, Inc. v. MyPillow, Inc., Civil Action 1:21-cv-0445 (CJN)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • May 19, 2022
    ...Colorado law, and District law, a common-law civil-conspiracy claim does not represent a standalone tort claim. See Strei v. Blaine, 996 F.Supp.2d 763, 795 (D. Minn. 2014) (quotation omitted) (“[A] civil conspiracy claim is merely a vehicle for asserting vicarious or joint and several liabi......
  • Cent. Specialties, Inc. v. Large, 20-3027
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • November 24, 2021
    ...involves less than a complete divestment 18 F.4th 1000 of the plaintiff's possessory rights in his property.’ " Strei v. Blaine, 996 F. Supp. 2d 763, 792 (D. Minn. 2014) (citation omitted).Dispossessing includes taking the chattel from the person in possession without his consent, obtaining......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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