Anoka County lost its bid Tuesday to have the Minnesota Supreme Court review a case that puts the county on the hook for more than $400,000 in its dispute with a contractor it hired for years to remove dead deer from roads.
The legal battle between the county and Ricky Johnson, who disposed of deer carcasses from county roads for more than 20 years, centered on a breach-of-contract dispute. A district court ruled last year that the county had repeatedly violated its contracts with Johnson and found that it owed him $420,418 in lost profits, a judgment that has since accrued thousands more in interest.
Anoka County appealed, but an appellate court in November affirmed the district court ruling, prompting the county to take the matter to the state Supreme Court.
The high court, however, declined to review the case and let the appellate ruling stand. Johnson, 60, got the call from his attorney Tuesday while he was at home in Nowthen.
“It’s like they took a 100-pound weight off the top of my head,” he said. “It feels like we can start a new chapter in life.”
In a statement Tuesday, the Anoka County attorney’s office said: “We felt there were procedural matters of law that should be reviewed, but the Supreme Court felt otherwise.”
Johnson sued the county in 2015 for shifting some of his work to inmates from the county workhouse, despite wording in his contracts that assigned him disposal of “all deer carcasses located on or near Anoka County highways.”
The wording remained the same even after the county started using workhouse labor to cut costs in 2003, documents show. Johnson’s damages were calculated to cover profits lost from May 2009 to December 2015, with previous years beyond the statute of limitations. “It just feels great to have something that’s gone right,” Johnson said.
The state Supreme Court grants review in only about 10 to 12 percent of the 700 appeals it receives each year.