This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






Chad A. Coleman, individually and as a

representative of all persons similarly situated,





State Farm Fire and Casualty Company,



Filed July 17, 2001

Reversed and remanded

Klaphake, Judge


Dakota County District Court

File No. C1008556


Sharon L. Van Dyck, Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, P.A., 5120 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402-2246; and


Christopher A. Kesler, Fleming & Associates, L.L.P., 1330 Post Oak Boulevard, Suite 3030, Houston, TX  77056 (for appellants)


William L. Moran, Murnane, Conlin, White & Brandt, P.A., 1800 Piper Jaffray Plaza, 444 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN  55101 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Stoneburner Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D    O P I N I O N

Chad A. Coleman, on behalf of himself and as representative of a class of insureds (collectively, appellants), brought a consumer class action against respondent State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (State Farm) for State Farm’s rejection of their reimbursement requests for the diminution in value to their vehicles as the result of accidents covered under their State Farm policies.  The original complaint alleges breach of contract, deceptive trade practices, and consumer fraud.  After filing an answer, State Farm moved to dismiss under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02 for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.  Appellants then moved to amend their complaint.  The district court dismissed the case, denying the motion to amend and determining that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.  Because we conclude that the complaint is legally sufficient to meet notice pleading requirements, we reverse the motion to dismiss and remand for further proceedings.



            First, we consider whether appellants pleaded legally sufficient facts in their complaint to properly establish a claim against State Farm.  In reviewing cases dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, “[t]he only question before [the reviewing court] is whether the complaint sets forth a legally sufficient claim for relief.”  Elzie v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 298 N.W.2d 29, 32 (Minn. 1980) (quotation omitted).  Because of the “extremely limited function” of such motions, a court will dismiss the complaint only if it is certain that no facts can be produced consistent with the complaint to support granting the relief sought.  Northern States Power Co. v. Franklin, 265 Minn. 391, 394-95, 122 N.W.2d 26, 29 (1963).  A reviewing court must take as true any factual allegations made in the complaint.  D.A.B. v. Brown, 570 N.W.2d 168, 170 (Minn. App. 1997). 

            The Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure require only notice pleading, the function of which is to give the adverse party fair notice of the theory on which the claimant seeks relief.  Barton v. Moore, 558 N.W.2d 746, 749 (Minn. 1997); see Minn. R. Civ. P. 8.01 (pleading “shall contain a short and plain statement of the claim”).  Minnesota law permits a party to plead “a broad general statement which may express conclusions.”  Northern States Power Co., 265 Minn. at 394, 122 N.W.2d at 29.  Further, a claimant is not required to allege facts to support every element of a cause of action.  Id.

Appellants’ complaint states that “State Farm * * * did not compensate [them] for the diminished value of [their] vehicle[s] after * * * repairs were made.”  State Farm contends this allegation is insufficient because it fails to state that appellants’ vehicles sustained actual diminished value after their repairs.  State Farm relies on Briehl v. General Motors Corp., 172 F.3d 623 (8th Cir. 1999), in which the court found the plaintiffs failed to adequately plead damages in a products liability case.  The Briehl plaintiffs claimed their vehicle brakes were defective but did not allege brake failure or any damages.  Id. at 626.  The court found that the plaintiffs’ perception that the brakes could fail did not establish damages.  Id. 

            The Briehl case is distinguishable on its facts:  here, appellants did not allege that the depreciation of their vehicles was merely a perception--they alleged measurable damages caused by State Farm’s failure to pay the diminished value of their vehicles. Given the more liberal requirements of notice pleading, the exact amount of depreciation claimed for each vehicle need not be pleaded in the complaint.

            We thus hold that appellants pleaded sufficient facts to support their claims.  Although appellants did not specifically claim an exact amount of diminishment in the value of their vehicles, the complaint alleges facts sufficient to provide State Farm with notice of damages for the members of the class.  We conclude that, on the pleadings alone, taking all facts in favor of appellants, the district court erred in dismissing this claim.


Next, in response to State Farm’s motion to dismiss, appellants filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint.  Appellants challenge the district court’s denial of their motion to amend the complaint to rectify the deceptive practices claim to include injunctive relief and to clarify the damages in the contract claim.  The district court should freely grant a party leave to amend its pleadings, except where amendment would prejudice the other party.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 15.01; see Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993).  A court may deny a motion to amend, however, if the proposed amendment does not state a viable claim for relief.  Anderson v. Minnesota Ins. Guar. Ass'n, 520 N.W.2d 155, 159 (Minn. App. 1994) (citing Eisert v. Greenberg Roofing & Sheet Metal Co., 314 N.W.2d 226, 228-29 (Minn. 1982)), rev'd on other grounds, 534 N.W.2d 706 (Minn. 1995).

The district court’s basis for denying the amended complaint was that appellants did not submit a claim to State Farm for the exact amount of the diminished value, nor did they claim they were forced to sell their vehicles at a diminished value.  Because we conclude that the pleadings were legally sufficient, we reverse.


            Finally, State Farm argues that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because appellants’ claims do not meet the $10,000 minimum amount required for a valid breach of contract claim under Minnesota’s No-Fault Arbitration statute.  See Minn. Stat. § 65B.525 (2000).  Courts have interpreted Minn. Stat. § 65B.525 as requiring arbitrators to decide fact questions and district courts to decide legal questions.  Weaver v. State Farm Ins. Co., 609 N.W.2d 878, 882 (Minn. 2000).  Because this suit properly includes claims for deceptive trade practices and contract coverage, there are outstanding questions of law and, thus, subject matter jurisdiction is appropriate.  After the deceptive trade practices and contract issues are resolved, this case may be sent to arbitration; that issue is not before this court at this time.[1]

            Reversed and remanded.

[1] At oral arguments, State Farm argued that appellants did not properly initiate the action because they failed to bring a declaratory judgment action.  We find no case law mandating that appellants bring a declaratory judgment action.  The supreme court has found that “[w]here a question to be resolved in the declaratory judgment action between an insurer and an insured will be decided in the main action, it is inappropriate to grant a declaratory judgment.”  Grain Dealers Mut. Ins. Co. v. Cady, 318 N.W.2d 247, 250 (Minn. 1982) (citing Brohawn v. Transamerica Ins. Co., 347 A.2d 842, 849 (1975)).  Because we find the deceptive trade practices claim properly before the court, it would be inappropriate to require appellants to bring a declaratory action.