This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Maurice Sugden, et al.,
State Farm Mutual Automobile
Insurance Company, et al.,
Filed March 21, 2000
Reversed and remanded
Kittson County District Court
File No. C79664
Robert M. Albrecht, Jeffrey W. Hane, Brink, Sobolik, Severson, Malm & Albrecht, P.A., P.O. Box 790, 217 South Birch Avenue, Hallock, MN 56728(for respondents)
William M. Hart, Jennifer E. Ampulski, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., 4200 Multifoods Tower, 33 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellants)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The district court granted summary judgment to respondents Maurice Sugden and Debra Sugden, ruling that they reasonably expected to be entitled to stack several insurance policies written by appellant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. We reverse and remand.
Debra Sugden was seriously injured on September 8, 1995, in Arizona when she lost control of the Toyota pickup truck she was driving and collided with several parked cars. State Farm Mutual Insurance Company insured the Toyota and paid no-fault insurance benefits to Ms. Sugden on the Toyota policy.
State Farm refused to “stack” four additional policies on vehicles her father owned. Ms. Sugden and her father, Maurice Sugden, then brought a declaratory judgment action against State Farm and its agent, Robert Carlson, to determine Ms. Sugden’s entitlement to stack and receive benefits from the additional policies. The parties made cross-motions for summary judgment.
As of the date of the accident, Maurice Sugden had five motor vehicles insured by State Farm under five separate policies. The application for the policy on the Toyota listed Debra Sugden as the primary driver but apparently did not name her as an insured. When he bought that policy, Mr. Sugden elected “stacking” coverage.
State Farm took the position that Debra Sugden was not insured under any policy other than the one covering the Toyota, and, therefore, she could not stack the other policies. The Sugdens contended that Mr. Sugden asked for stacking, paid premiums for stacking, and was told by State Farm’s agent that Debra was entitled to stack the policies. In their lawsuit, the Sugdens asserted theories of equitable estoppel, misrepresentation, negligence, and reasonable expectations.
The district court granted the Sugdens’ motion for summary judgment, ruling that the policy on the Toyota was ambiguous as to the applicability of stacking and that the Sugdens reasonably expected that Debra would be able to stack all policies.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal from summary judgment, the reviewing court must determine whether any genuine issues of material fact exist and whether the trial court correctly applied the law. Offerdahl v. University of Minn. Hosps. & Clinics, 426 N.W.2d 425, 427 (Minn. 1988). “Insurance coverage issues are questions of law for the court.” State Farm Ins. Cos. v. Seefeld, 481 N.W.2d 62, 64 (Minn. 1992) (citation omitted).
“Stacking” is a term of art that refers to the practice of adding two or more policies together to increase the amount of coverage for a claim. Minn. Stat. § 65B.47, subd. 7 (1998). The right to stack was first recognized in Minnesota by the supreme court. Wasche v. Milbank Mut. Ins. Co., 268 N.W.2d 913 (Minn. 1978). Then the legislature modified the rules on stacking by requiring insurers to tell insureds of their right to elect to stack two or more policies, and restricting stacking when insureds do not elect to stack. Minn. Stat. § 65B.47, subd. 7 (Supp. 1985).
The sine qua non of stacking is that the person seeking coverage under multiple policies be insured under those policies. Koons v. National Family Ins. Co., 301 N.W.2d 550, 553 (Minn. 1981). If the person is insured under only one policy, there is nothing to stack that policy upon. See Doerner v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 337 N.W.2d 394, 396-97 (Minn. 1983) (injured passengers covered by owner’s insurance solely because of their status as passengers cannot stack owner’s insurance on noninvolved vehicles unless they are also insureds under such insurance).
Debra Sugden was not insured under any policy except the one covering the Toyota. She could not have reasonably expected stacking to apply to her. The district court erred in holding otherwise.
The Sugdens argue that the stacking involved here is contractual rather than judicial. Even if they are correct, stacking is not available to her. In Johnson v. State Farm Auto. Ins. Co., 556 N.W.2d 214 (Minn. 1996), the supreme court dealt with contractual stacking:
Here, while the owner of the vehicle in which the plaintiff was injured had elected to stack her three basic economic loss no-fault policies on three separate vehicles, for the benefit of herself and her family members, the plaintiff was not an insured under the policies issued with regard to the two other vehicles and was only an insured by virtue of his presence as a passenger in the vehicle involved in the accident and was only an insured in relation to that vehicle. Stacking of benefits is not authorized under these circumstances.
Debra Sugden was insured only by virtue of the fact that she was driving an insured vehicle. She was not a named insured on any of the other policies, nor did she qualify as a relative of a named insured because she was not residing in a named insured’s household at the time of the accident. See Minn. Stat. § 65B.43, subd. 5 (1998) (“insured” includes an unnamed relative of a named insured who resides in the same household with the named insured). She was not eligible to stack any of the policies on her father’s other vehicles.
We reverse the district court’s determination that Debra Sugden and Maurice Sugden reasonably expected entitlement to stack the five insurance policies. However, we do not intend our holding to affect any other issues or theories in the case, and we remand for further proceedings as may be appropriate.
Reversed and remanded.