The Minnesota Court of Appeals released an unpublished opinion on February 18, 2014 in the case of In re: Guardianship and Conseservatorship of Wallace Berge, A13-0585.
Berge held that the admission of an emergency room report in a guardianship trial was not prejudicial error, where there was ample other evidence to support the Court’s ultimate conclusion that a limited guardian and conservator was necessary. Although, as the Court noted, the District Court would not have been able to make Findings of Fact as to Berge’s condition at the hospital emergency room without admitting the emergency room report, the Court went on to note that the emergency room report simply corroborated the other testimony that it had admitted and found credible concerning Berge’s condition that entire night (confirming the observations of an officer and a child of Berge’s).
Also of note is the Court’s analysis of whether less restrictive means were possible, in lieu of a guardianship. The court relied upon testimony that Berge would likely not accept outside caregiver services because he had in the past refused them and because he was frugal.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished opinion, In re the Guardianship of Christine Rose Samson (Minn. App. June 18, 2012), which serves as a good reminder that practitioners need to put as much factual detail as possible in their petitions for guardianship/conservatorship (and, more importantly, have the factual support to back up the need for a guardianship).
In Samson, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a son’s petition seeking guardianship of his 98 year old mother. Although the facts aren’t completely set forth in the Samson opinion, it appears that the petition alleged that a doctor had prescribed some wrong medication for mom; mom had previously executed a health care directive naming her daughter as health care agent; and the daughter vacationed in Florida each year for 2 months at a time and so, allegedly, unable to act with regard to mom’s health care needs during this time.
The lesson of Samson is that although Minn. Stat. 524.5-303 indicates that the petition should include a “brief description of the nature and extent of the respondent’s alleged incapacity”, in order to avoid having the petition dismissed, it would be wise to include sufficient factual detail to survive a motion to dismiss. At a minimum, the petitioner should be prepared to submit additional factual support for the allegations set forth in the petition, if faced with a motion to dismiss. However, the obvious drawback of not including the factual details in the original petition is that then the court may decline to consider matters outside of the original pleadings.
Bottom line: if you are going to petition for guardianship and/or conservatorship of someone, you should have more than just general allegations/suspicions. You must have very specific factual examples that justify taking away someone’s civil liberties and imposing a guardianship.