This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Tom Vogel, et al.,
American Family Mutual Insurance Company, et al.,
Filed January 23, 2007
Stearns County District Court
File No. C5-04-5132
Mark G. McKeon, Willenbring, Dahl, Wocken & Zimmermann,
Steven R. Schwegman, Kenneth H. Bayliss, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., 400 South First Street, 600 Wells Fargo Center, St. Cloud, MN 56302-1008 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.
Appellants challenge the district court order and resulting judgment dismissing their claim, arguing that the district court erred in finding that appellants did not specifically request homeowner’s insurance from respondent Larson, and in not making findings on respondent’s alleged failure to perform certain statutory obligations. Because the district court properly applied the law and did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.
Appellants Tom and Carla Vogel were married in early 2003 and closed on the purchase of a home in June 2003. Prior to that, Tom Vogel had owned and operated an insurance agency but was no longer active in the insurance business and used Eric Larson, an agent with American Family Mutual Insurance (American Family), to obtain insurance.
The Vogels, who had received a quote from Larson for homeowner’s insurance prior to closing on their home, contend that they asked Larson to obtain a homeowner’s policy with American Family. In November 2003, a fire damaged the Vogels’ home. When the Vogels contacted Larson to report the loss, he informed them that he had not obtained an insurance policy for them. The Vogels commenced legal action against American Family and Eric Larson.
Prior to trial, the district court dismissed the claim against American Family and denied the Vogels’ motions for summary judgment. The Vogels later voluntarily dismissed a negligence claim against Larson. The matter proceeded to trial before the court on the Vogels’ claims against Larson for (1) breach of a contract to secure insurance; and (2) violation of Minn. Stat. § 72A.499, subd. 1, which requires insurance agents to notify applicants of adverse underwriting decisions.
At trial, the parties disputed whether insurance was requested. Carla Vogel testified that she received an oral quote at Larson’s office in late May or early June and provided her social security number and all information that Larson requested. She also obtained a quote from State Farm and gave both quotes to her husband. Tom Vogel testified that he then called Larson to request insurance and asked what else they needed to do. According to Vogel, Larson told him they would need pictures of the home and gave him his digital camera to take the photos. After taking the photos, he met Larson at his office the day before the closing, gave him the camera, filled out a replacement cost analysis form, and requested a quote for auto insurance on his wife’s vehicle.
Larson’s version of the events is markedly different. He and his assistant, Renee Henderer, both testified that Carla Vogel appeared at their office the day before the closing and requested a quote for homeowner’s insurance. Larson told her that she needed to provide her social security number and other personal information to obtain an accurate quote and determine if the Vogels were eligible for coverage. She declined to provide the information and stated her desire to insure with State Farm.
Larson provided Carla Vogel with a written quote dated June 23 based on the limited information she provided. The quote stated that “[t]he rates shown above are only an estimate and subject to final determination by the company. This is not a policy and no coverage is bound.” (Emphasis in original). The quote was computer generated and automatically enters the date it is issued and cannot be subsequently altered.
After the closing
on the home, Larson and Henderer continued to request the information from
Carla Vogel and photos of the house. Henderer
documented their attempts to obtain the information in the agency’s computer
system, which automatically date stamps each entry and prohibits subsequent
alteration. Larson admitted that he
loaned Vogel his digital camera to take photos of the home, but when Vogel
returned the camera, no photos were saved in the camera. Larson later contacted Vogel and told him
that another American Family agent would be in the
Following trial, the district court made its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and ordered dismissal of the case. The district court concluded that Larson and Henderer’s testimony was more credible and found that the Vogels did not request insurance and, therefore, concluded there was no meeting of the minds and no contract to obtain insurance. Judgment was entered and this appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
The Vogels contend that the district court erred in concluding that no contract was formed between the parties to purchase a homeowner’s policy. To challenge the district court’s conclusion, the Vogels attack the court’s underlying findings that (1) the Vogels did not request insurance; and (2) no meeting of the minds occurred.
When reviewing a
district court’s findings, “we view the record in the light most favorable to
the judgment of the district court.”
requires the mutual assent of the parties. Field-Martin Co. v. Fruen Milling Co.,
Vogels rely on Writers, Inc. v.
Here, there is ample evidence to support the district court’s finding that the Vogels did not request insurance. Both Larson and Henderer testified that the Vogels did not request insurance and did not provide the information required to apply for the insurance policy. The court credited their version of the events, and credibility determinations are left to the factfinder’s discretion. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (stating that “due regard” must be given to district court’s credibility determinations). Further, the Vogels acknowledged that they did not (1) sign an application; (2) make any payments towards homeowner’s insurance; (3) have any payments deducted from their accounts through automatic funds transfer for homeowner’s insurance; or (4) receive a binder or declaration of coverage.
The Vogels argue that Larson’s requests for information and photos of the property after the closing substantiate their claim that they had requested insurance. Here, the court found that the necessary information, namely, Carla’s social security number and other personal information, was not supplied. Because the Vogels did not supply Carla’s social security number and other personal information, they could not apply for insurance. The district court’s finding is not clearly erroneous.
The Vogels also
argue that the district court applied the wrong standard when it found that
there was no “meeting of the minds.” We
agree that the phrase “meeting of the minds” may be misleading and that the
test for contract formation is whether the parties have objectively expressed
their mutual assent. See Field-Martin Co, 210
The Vogels argue that the district court erred by not making findings of fact on Larson’s performance of statutory obligations imposed by Minn. Stat. §§ 72A.494 and .502 (2006). The Vogels made no posttrial motions challenging the lack of findings.
appeal from a judgment where no posttrial motions were made, “the only
questions for review are whether the evidence sustains the findings of fact and
whether such findings sustain the conclusions of law and the judgment.” Gruenhagen
v. Larson, 310
Rochester v. Delta Dental Plan of
even if we were to consider this issue, we conclude that appellant’s argument
that Larson had a statutory duty to “provide a notice relating to
information practices” under Minn. Stat. § 72A.494 and to obtain
authorization under Minn. Stat. § 72A.502 lacks merit. Minn. Stat. § 72A.494, subd. 1, requires
insurance agents to provide notice about information practices “to each
applicant or policyholder.” Likewise,
Minn. Stat. § 72A.502, subd. 1, prohibits insurance agents from collecting
personal information “about a policyholder or an applicant” without authorization
from the person. An “applicant,”as
defined by the statute, is “any person who seeks to contract for insurance
coverage from an insurer.”