This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
Northern J&B Enterprises, Inc.,
d/b/a Moondance Rand and Wildlife Park,
Secura Insurance, A Mutual Company,
Capitol Indemnity Corporation,
d/b/a Gryphon Insurance Group,
a/k/a Specialty Insurance Group,
Cass County District Court
File No. C708583
Susan J. Bowden, Todd A. Crabtree, Crabtree Law Firm, P.A., 1901 Curve Crest Blvd., Stillwater, MN 55082 (for appellant)
Steven M. Fuller, 514 America Avenue, P.O. Box 880, Bemidji, MN 56601 (for defendant-debtor)
Michael D. LaFountaine, Heidi N. Wolf, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., P.O. Box 1008, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for respondent Secura Insurance)
Nicholas Ostapenko, Roy J. Christensen, Johnson, Killen & Seiler, P.A., 230 West Superior Street, Suite 800, Duluth, MN 55802 (for respondent Capitol Indemnity)
Leo I. Brisbois, Michael S. Kreidler, Stich, Angell & Kreidler, P.A., The Crossings, Suite 120, 250 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for respondent Calvert Insurance)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant brought an action against the driver of the other vehicle and Northern J&B Enterprises, Inc. (Northern), for injuries sustained in a head-on auto collision. Appellant entered into a Miller-Shugart agreement with Northern and the other driver and moved, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 571.75, subd. 4 (2000), to file a supplemental complaint against Northern’s three general liability insurers, all of whom had denied coverage based on the auto exclusion provision in the policies. The district court denied the motion. Appellant contends the court erred in determining that the insurance policies’ auto exclusions preclude coverage because Northern’s negligent acts were independent of the auto-related negligent acts. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
A court “must grant a motion to file a supplemental complaint if probable cause is shown that the garnishee will be liable for the judgment debt.” Rohrer v. Rick, 529 N.W.2d 406, 407 (Minn. App. 1995). Minn. Stat. § 571.75, subd. 4, provides:
[W]here the garnishee denies liability, the creditor may move the court * * * for an order making the garnishee a party to the civil action and granting the creditor leave to file a supplemental complaint against the garnishee and the debtor. The supplemental complaint shall set forth the facts upon which the creditor claims to charge the garnishee. If probable cause is shown, the motion shall be granted.
Minn. Stat. § 571.75, subd. 4. The existence of probable cause in an insurance case “‘depends on whether the evidence shows probable grounds for believing that the garnishee might be held liable under the policy.’” Rohrer, 529 N.W.2d at 407-08 (citing Poor Richards, Inc. v. Chas. Olson & Sons & Wheel Serv. Co., 380 N.W.2d 225, 227 (Minn. App. 1986) (quoting Gudbrandsen v. Pelto, 205 Minn. 607, 610, 287 N.W. 116, 117-18 (1939)). Probable cause is established through “some showing by evidence which fairly and reasonably tends to show the existence of the facts alleged.” Id. at 408 (quoting Gudbrandsen, 205 Minn. at 609, 287 N.W. at 117).
“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). Thus, this court reviews the insurance coverage issues de novo. Health Personnel v. Peterson, 629 N.W.2d 132, 134 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Aug. 22, 2001). “General principles of contract interpretation apply to insurance policies.” Lobeck v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 582 N.W.2d 246, 249 (Minn. 1998). This court gives clear and unambiguous language “its usual and accepted meaning.” Id. (quotation omitted). An appellate court construes coverage exclusions narrowly, and the insurance company bears the burden of proving that the policy exclusion bars coverage. Seefeld, 481 N.W.2d at 64.
Generally, auto exclusions operate to exclude from coverage injuries arising out of the ownership, use, or entrustment of the vehicle. In some circumstances, however, a plaintiff may recover on the general business liability policy, as well as the automobile liability policy, for injuries resulting from the use of a motor vehicle where there are “two independent acts, one vehicle-related and one nonvehicle-related * * *.” Waseca Mut. Ins. Co. v. Noska, 331 N.W.2d 917, 921 (Minn. 1983). But the supreme court has limited the application of Noska to causes that arise independently of each other and “could have operated independent of a motor vehicle to cause the loss.” Seefeld, 481 N.W.2d at 65. Whether use of a vehicle and the resulting injury are independent depends upon the particular facts of the case. Noska, 331 N.W.2d at 920.
Appellant argues that the district court misapplied the law when it determined that there was no probable cause shown that respondents may be liable under the policies. Specifically, appellant asserts that Northern’s nonvehicle negligence of inviting, creating, and maintaining a lawless environment at the Moondance festival operated independently and combined with the driver’s negligence caused appellant’s injuries. We disagree.
Neither the alleged lawless environment at Moondance nor the alleged negligence of Northern’s employee could have operated independently of the motor vehicle to cause appellant’s injuries. As in Seefeld, where the court held that a negligently designed and constructed trailer being pulled by an all-terrain vehicle could not cause injury independent of the operation of a motor vehicle, Seefeld, 481 N.W.2d at 65, a vehicle was necessary for Northern’s negligence to cause injuries to appellant. The district court properly concluded that “[t]he act of allowing a Jam patron to get into a vehicle and find the keys, in and by itself, could not have caused Plaintiff’s injuries.” Although it is possible that appellant or some other patron of Moondance could have suffered nonvehicle-related injuries resulting from the general lawless atmosphere created at Moondance, a “remote possibility” of injuries is not sufficient. Seefeld, 481 N.W.2d at 65.
Moreover, appellant’s argument that Northern was negligent in failing to control alcohol use, leaving keys in an unlocked vehicle, and failing to provide adequate security, are essentially negligent supervision, negligent entrustment, and negligent security claims. As such, Minnesota law recognizes that they are not acts independent of ownership of a motor vehicle. See, e.g., Fillmore v. Iowa Nat’l Mut. Ins. Co., 344 N.W.2d 875, 880 (Minn. App. 1984) (rejecting claim that parent’s negligent supervision of son with drug and alcohol abuse problems and negligent entrustment of vehicle to son were independent acts); Austin Mut. Ins. Co. v. Klande, 563 N.W.2d 282, 284 (Minn. App. 1997) (finding negligent supervision not divisible from the ownership and use of motorcycle after child suffered burns when motorcycle fell on him); Roloff v. Taste of Minnesota, 488 N.W.2d 325, 326 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Oct. 20, 1992) (finding appellant’s claim for negligent security failed because it was causally related to an assault and insurance policy excluded coverage for suits based on assault and battery). Here, the vehicle caused the injury, and appellant may not avoid the operation of the auto exclusion by arguing different legal theories.
Because Northern’s negligence could not have operated independent of the motor vehicle to cause appellant’s injuries, we conclude the policies did not provide coverage for the accident. Therefore, appellant did not show probable cause for respondents’ liability and the district court did not err in denying appellant’s motion to file a supplemental complaint in garnishment.
Finally, because the auto exclusion precludes recovery, we need not address respondents’ argument challenging the Miller-Shugart agreement.