Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Minnesota Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court held that a health care provider who did not intervene in an employee's pending workers' compensation proceeding after receiving adequate notice of the right to intervene cannot initiate a collateral attack on the compensation award under Minn. Stat. 176.271, .291 or Minn. R. 1420.1850, subp. 3B.Scott Koehnen was injured during the course and scope of his employment for Flagship Marine Company. Koehnen received chiropractic treatment from Keith Johnson. Johnson submitted his charges to the workers' compensation insurer for Koehnen's employer, but both the employer and insurer (collectively, Flagship Marine) denied liability for Koehnen's injury. When Koehnen filed a claim petition seeking workers' compensation benefits his attorney sent a notice informing Johnson of his right to intervene. Johnson, however, did not move to intervene, and the proceeding continued without him. Koehnen and Flagship Marine subsequently entered into a settlement agreement. The compensation judge approved the stipulation for settlement and issued an award on stipulation. Johnson later filed a petition for payment of medical expenses pursuant to section 176.271, .291.The compensation judge dismissed the petition, and the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Johnson chose not to intervene his petition was correctly dismissed. View "Koehnen v. Flagship Marine Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding taxable costs for denying a first-party insurance claim in violation of Minn. Stat. 604.18, subd. 2(a), holding that the district court did not clearly err.After a bench trial, the district court found that Western National Mutual Insurance Company did not have a reasonable basis for denying Alison Joel Peterson's claim for insurance benefits and acted in reckless disregard of its lack of a reasonable basis in denying the claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not clearly err in determining that a reasonable insurer, who had the information that Western National had, would not have denied Peterson's claim for benefits; and (2) the district court did not clearly err by finding that Western National knew, or recklessly disregarded information that would have allowed it to know, that it lacked an objectively reasonable basis for denying benefits to Peterson. View "Peterson v. Western National Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the amount of loss after a fire occurred at the home of Respondents the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court granting Respondents' motion to confirm an appraisal award but denying Respondents' motion for preaward interest as untimely, holding that the district court erred by applying the Minnesota Uniform Arbitration Act, Minn. Stat. 572B.01-.31, to a fire loss appraisal award.Respondents' home was insured against fire loss by Appellant. When Appellant and Respondent were unable to agree on the amount of the loss Respondents requested an appraisal. After an appraisal panel issued an award, which State Farm paid, Respondents sought confirmation of the appraisal and moved the court to grant preaward interest on the appraisal award. The superior court confirmed the appraisal award but denied the motion for preaward interest as untimely. The court of appeals reversed and remanded. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Act did not apply to the appraisal process under the Minnesota Standard Fire Insurance Policy, Minn. Stat. 65A.01; and (2) a remand was necessary to allow the district court to determine whether Respondents were owed preaward interest and, if so, the amount of interest owed. View "Oliver v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court holding that Appellant, who was injured while she was driving a Pontiac and sought additional primary underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits under an insurance policy that covered a separate vehicle, a Chevrolet, was not entitled to primary UIM benefits under the Chevrolet policy, holding that Appellant could not recover additional primary UIM benefits under the Chevrolet policy.State Farm, Appellant's insurer, paid Appellant the Pontiac policy's UIM benefits limit but denied that the Chevrolet policy applied to Appellant's claim for additional primary UIM benefits. The district court granted summary judgment for State Farm, holding that the Chevrolet policy did not apply under Minn. Stat. 65B.49, subd. 3a(5). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) consistent with section 65B.49, subdivision 3a(5) and precedent interpreting that provision, Appellant was limited to primary UIM benefits under the policy that covered the vehicle she occupied at the time of the accident; and (2) even assuming that parties can contract around the priority scheme for primary UIM benefits that the legislature established in section 65B.49, subdivision 3a(5), no explicit language in the State Farm policies actually did so. View "Visser v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing the claims filed by Depositors Insurance Company against Craig Dollansky after concluding that Depositors was barred by Minn. Stat. 60A.41(a) from proceeding against Dollansky in a subrogation action, holding that the statute indeed barred Depositors from proceeding in this action.Depositors insured a motor vehicle home owned by Karavan Trailers, Inc., which rented the motor home to Dollansky. The rental agreement provided that Dollansky was responsible for all damages to the RV during the term of the agreement. The motor vehicle caught fire while Dollansky was driving it. Karavan submitted a claim to its insurer, Depositors, which paid the full amount of the damages. Depositors then filed a complaint against Dollansky, alleging that Depositors was surrogated to the rights of Karavan in the same amount. The district court dismissed the claims, concluding that Depositors was barred by section 60A.41(a) from proceeding against Dollansky in a subrogation action. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where Depositors provided insurance coverage to Dollansky as a permissive-use driver and the loss was caused by the nonintentional acts of Dollansky, section 60A.41(a) barred Depositors from proceeding against Dollansky in a subrogation action. View "Depositors Insurance Co. v. Dollansky" on Justia Law

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Claims brought against the manufacturer of a component part of an improvement to real property fell under an exception to the ten-year statute of repose because the improvement was “machinery installed upon real property.” See Minn. Stat. 541.051.Appellant manufactured the motor in a home’s heat-recovery ventilator. Sixteen years after the ventilator was installed, a fire started in the ventilator, causing property damage to the home. Respondent, the insurer of the homeowners, brought this subrogation action against Appellant. The district court granted summary judgment for Appellant, concluding that the ten-year statute of response for improvements to real property barred every claim except the claim alleging a post-sale duty to warn, which claim it dismissed upon summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) under the plain language of section 541.051, the ventilator containing Appellant’s motor was “machinery installed upon real property,” and therefore, the court of appeals properly reinstated Respondent’s breach of warranty, negligence, and product liability claims; and (2) Appellant did not have a duty to warn consumers of its product’s alleged defect after the time of sale. View "Great Northern Insurance Co. v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law

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A facsimile transmission is not a “delivery” under Minn. R. Civ. P. 3.01(c), which requires that a summons be “delivered” to the sheriff before an action is commenced, because Rule 3.01(c) contemplates personal delivery to the office of the sheriff.In this case, Plaintiff faxed a summons and complaint to the sheriffs in two counties. Deputy sheriffs from both counties personally served Defendants. Defendants moved to dismiss the action, arguing that facsimile transmission did not constitute “delivery” of the summons under Rule 3.01(c). The district court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the sheriffs completed service of process on each of the defendants, thus commencing Plaintiff’s action under Rule 3.01(a). View "Cox v. Mid-Minnesota Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the permissibility of preaward interest on an insurance appraisal award under the preaward interest statute, Minn. Stat. 549.09, subd. 1(b). Cincinnati Insurance Company issued James Poehler a homeowner’s insurance policy that provided replacement cost coverage for Poehler’s home and personal property. After a fire damaged Poehler’s property, Poehler demanded an appraisal under the appraisal clause of the policy. The appraisers issued an award, determining that Poehler’s total loss was more than what Cincinnati had paid by the time of the appraisal hearing. The district court confirmed the appraisal award and granted Poehler preaward interest. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the preaward interest statute does not apply to appraisal awards pursuant to an insurance policy in the absence of “an underlying breach of contract or actionable wrongdoing.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 549.09 does not require a finding of wrongdoing for the recovery of a reward interest on appraisal awards; (2) the loss payment provision in Cincinnati’s insurance policy did not preclude Poehler from recovering preaward interest on the appraisal award; and (3) the loss payment provision in Minn. Stat. 65A.01, the Minnesota standard fire insurance policy, did not apply in this case. View "Poehler v. Cincinnati Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant suffered injuries after being hit by another driver. The at-fault driver’s liability insurer paid Appellant $100,000, the full amount available under the policy. Appellant made a settlement demand on State Farm, with whom he had an underinsured-motorist policy that also had a $100,000 coverage limit. State Farm offered less than $30,000 to settle the claim. Appellant filed a complaint against State Farm alleging breach of contract and claiming that he was entitled to the full amount recoverable under the policy. The district court ultimately entered judgment in the amount of $98,800. Thereafter, Appellant amended his complaint to add a claim under Minn. Stat. 604.18, which authorizes the award of “taxable costs” when an insurer denies benefits without a reasonable basis. The district court concluded that State Farm had denied Appellant insurance benefits without a reasonable basis. The court then determined that the “proceeds awarded” to an insured under section 604.18 are capped by the insurance policy limit. The court of appeals affirmed after determining that the state was ambiguous. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 604.18 unambiguously caps “proceeds awarded” at the amount recoverable under the insurance policy. View "Wilbur v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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American Family Insurance Company (American Family) issued automobile insurance policies to policyholders that were later injured in automobile accidents. The policy contained an anti-assignment clause, but, in order to obtain medical treatment, the policyholders assigned their interests in basic economic loss benefits to their medical provider, Stand Up Multipositional Advantage MRI, P.A. (Stand Up). Stand Up filed suit against the policyholders, their attorneys, and American Family for failing to make payment directly to Stand Up in accordance with the assignments. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, concluding that the anti-assignment clause was unenforceable, and therefore, the assignments to Stand Up were valid. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the anti-assignment clause was valid and precluded the assignments the policyholders made to Stand Up. View "Stand Up Multipositional Advantage MRI, P.A. v. American Family Insurance Co." on Justia Law