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Legal Memorandum: Burden of Proof in a Contract Matter in MN

Issue: What is necessary for a plaintiff to meet their burden of proof for a prima facie case in a contract matter?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Burden of proof; Contract; Prima facie case
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 566 N.W.2d 60; 268 Minn. 284; 129 N.W.2d 309
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. §513.33 subd. 2; Minn. Stat. § 513.01(2)
Date: 08/01/2013

Where a plaintiff proves a prima facie case and it is unrebutted by defendant, the plaintiff has met his burden of proof.  Elk River Concrete Prods. Co. v. American Cas. Co., 268 Minn. 284, 129 N.W.2d 309 (1964).  See Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03; DLH, Inc. v. Russ, 566 N.W.2d 60, 69 (Minn. 1997).

Contract construction and interpretation is a question of law for the court, not a question of fact for a jury.  See Caldas v. Affordable Granite & Stone Inc., 820 N.W.2d 826, 832 (Minn. 2012).  See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). 

Under Minn. Stat. §513.33 subd. 2, “[a] debtor may not maintain an action on a credit agreement unless the agreement is in writing, expresses consideration, sets forth the relevant terms and conditions, and is signed by the creditor and the debtor.”  Minn. Stat. § 513.33, subd. 2.  This prohibition also applies to a defendant’s affirmative defenses, and a “credit agreement” subject to the statute may include alleged modifications to a written guaranty.  BankCherokee v. Insignia Development, LLC, 779 N.W.2d 896, 902 (Minn. Ct. App. 2010). 

See Odens Family Props. LLC v. Twin Cities Stores Inc. 393 F. Supp. 2d 824, 828 (D. Minn. 2005).  When the Odens court was presented with the defendant’s argument that there was an alleged oral release from a written guarantee, the court held the parol evidence rule barred such evidence and granted […]

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