This opinion will be unpublished and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
C3-99-1849 - C0-99-2084
Vicki L. Norman, et al.,
Aaron Enevoldsen, et al.,
Filed May 30, 2000
Chippewa County District Court
File No. C6-97-279
Sarah Winge, Stephen Torvik, Nelson, Oyen, Torvik, P.L.L.P., 221 North First Street, P.O. Box 656, Montevideo, MN 56265 (for respondents)
John R. Rodenberg, Berens, Rodenberg & O'Connor, Chtd., 519 Center Street, P.O. Box 428, New Ulm, MN 56073-0428 (for appellants)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant-mother misrepresented to an insurance carrier that she had an insurable interest in appellant-son's truck. The son drove the truck negligently and got into an accident that killed one of the son's passengers. After a court declared that there was no insurance coverage on the truck, the decedent's trustees brought a wrongful-death action, claiming that the mother is liable to them because of her misrepresentation to the insurer. After denying the mother's motions for summary judgment and for dismissal for failure to state a claim, the district court certified as important and doubtful the question of whether a claim of misrepresentation would lie against the mother. We answer the question in the negative and reverse the district court's denial of the mother's motion to dismiss.
Twenty-one-year-old Aaron Enevoldsen bought a pickup truck and registered title in his name. He was unable to insure the truck because of his poor driving record. His mother, KeEtta Enevoldsen, obtained insurance on the truck, although she was neither an owner nor a driver and even though her son did not reside in her household. She did not tell the insurer that the truck belonged to her son and she said that she would be using it for craft shows. The insurer listed the truck solely in her name.
Aaron Enevoldsen was involved in an accident while driving the truck on December 20, 1996. One passenger, Ole Steve Norman, was killed. Another passenger was injured.
The insurer brought an action in federal district court seeking a declaration that it had no obligation to provide insurance coverage for the accident. Ruling that the insurance policy was void ab initio because KeEtta Enevoldsen had no insurable interest in the truck, the federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer.
The trustees for the next of kin of Ole Steve Norman then brought a wrongful‑death action against Aaron and KeEtta Enevoldsen in a Minnesota district court. The trustees alleged that Aaron Enevoldsen's negligence was imputed by operation of law to his mother. After denying KeEtta Enevoldsen's motion for summary judgment, the district court allowed the trustees to amend their complaint to allege a claim of misrepresentation against KeEtta Enevoldsen. Through this claim the trustees sought to impose liability on KeEtta Enevoldsen because of her failure to disclose to the insurer that her son owned the truck.
The court denied KeEtta Enevoldsen's motion to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim and certified to this court the question of whether the trustees have stated a claim against KeEtta Enevoldsen.
D E C I S I O N
If the district court certifies a question as important and doubtful, an appeal may be taken from the court's order denying a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim or from an order denying summary judgment. Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.03(h). A certified question is an issue of law that an appellate court reviews de novo. In re Butler, 552 N.W.2d 226, 229 (Minn. 1996).
The certified question is whether KeEtta Enevoldsen's misrepresentation to the insurer of the truck creates liability to third parties for damages caused by her son's negligent operation of the truck. The trustees argue that, but for KeEtta Enevoldsen's misrepresentation, the truck would have been insured and they would have been the beneficiaries of the coverage.
We disagree with the trustees' reasoning. The record shows that Aaron Enevoldsen was unable to obtain insurance on his own. Thus, with or without his mother's misrepresentation, he would not have been an insured owner or driver. Minnesota law requires owners of motor vehicles that will be operated on public streets to obtain liability insurance. Minn. Stat. § 65B.48, subd. 1 (1998). But there is nothing in this record to show that Aaron Enevoldsen would have or could have complied with that mandate.
Moreover, the trustees are unable to state a claim of misrepresentation against KeEtta Enevoldsen. Under Minnesota law, two essential elements of the tort of misrepresentation are (1) the defendant intended by the misrepresentation to induce the plaintiff to act, and (2) the plaintiff was induced to act in reliance on the representation. Gorham v. Benson Optical, 539 N.W.2d 798, 802 (Minn. App. 1995).
KeEtta Enevoldsen's representation was made to the insurer alone and solely to induce the insurer to issue an insurance policy. Neither the decedent nor the trustees had any knowledge of KeEtta Enevoldsen's representation or of the policy that the insurer issued. There exists no fact from which to draw a reasonable inference that anyone other than the insurer was induced to act in reliance on the representation.
We answer the certified question in the negative. Because respondents are unable to state a claim against KeEtta Enevoldsen under Minnesota law, she is entitled to judgment dismissing the action against her. A dismissal of the action makes the summary judgment issue moot.