This opinion will be unpublished and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
State Farm Insurance Company, et al.,
Filed December 11, 2007
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 27-CV-06-10726
Stephen W. Cooper, Stacey R. Everson, The Cooper Law Firm, Chartered, Loring Green East, 1201 Yale Place, Suite A100, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (for appellant)
Bradley T. Cosgriff, Labore, Giuliani, Cosgriff & Viltoft, Ltd., 10285 Yellow Circle Drive, P.O. Box 70, Hopkins, MN 55343-0070 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Dietzen, Judge; and Ross, Judge.
In this appeal from summary judgment, Spencer Blaw disputes the denial of no-fault insurance coverage for gunshot injuries he sustained while vacuuming his minivan. Because there is an insufficient causal relationship between the maintenance of the vehicle and the injuries Blaw sustained, we affirm.
F A C T S
Spencer Blaw provided evidence of the following facts, which are accepted as true for the purpose of reviewing summary judgment. Blaw intended to use his minivan to run several errands on July 16, 2003. He left home, ran his first errand, and drove to a car wash. At the car wash, he began vacuuming inside the vehicle.
While Blaw was vacuuming his minivan at about 11:30 a.m., a young man approached the vehicle. The man had a gun. He told Blaw to give him his wallet and threatened Blaw with his gun. While Blaw was removing his wallet from his pocket, the gun discharged and wounded Blaw. The record indicates that a second young man was involved in the shooting incident, but it is unclear whether this second man approached the vehicle before or after Blaw was shot. Blaw suffered serious and permanent injuries as a result of the shooting.
After a hearing, the district court determined that, as a matter of law, Blaw is not entitled to coverage under Minnesota’s no-fault insurance statute because Blaw’s injuries did not arise out of maintenance or use of a motor vehicle. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
A court may grant a motion for summary judgment when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits, show there is no genuine issue of material fact and that either party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993) (citing Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03). On appeal, we view the evidence in the record “in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was granted.” Id. As applied to particular facts, the question of whether injuries arise out of “maintenance or use of a motor vehicle” as defined by Minnesota’s no-fault statute is a legal issue, subject to de novo review. Cont’l W. Ins. Co. v. Klug, 415 N.W.2d 876, 877 (Minn. 1987); Medicine Lake Bus Co. v. Smith, 554 N.W.2d 623, 624 (Minn. App. 1996).
Blaw’s claim for basic economic loss benefits is governed by Minnesota’s no-fault insurance statute. The operative language states that “[b]asic economic loss benefits shall provide reimbursement for all loss suffered through injury arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle . . . .” Minn. Stat. § 65B.44, subd. 1(a) (2006). Whether a particular accident arises out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle turns on the facts of each case. Klug, 415 N.W.2d at 877-78.
In Klug, the supreme court developed a three-part test for determining whether an injury arises out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle. Id. at 878. Courts must first consider “the extent of causation between the automobile and the injury.” Id. If the plaintiff establishes causation, then the court must “determine whether an act of independent significance occurred, breaking the causal link between ‘use’ of the vehicle and the injuries inflicted.” Id. If the court finds no intervening independent act, no-fault coverage applies unless the vehicle was not being used for transportation purposes at the time of the injury. Id.
The first part of the Klug test is dispositive in this case. No-fault coverage applies only if there is a sufficient causal link between the injury and the vehicle. Id. The vehicle “must be an ‘active accessory’ in causing the injury.” Id. This means that the relationship between the vehicle and the injury may “be something less than proximate cause in the tort sense, but the vehicle must be more than the mere situs of the injury.” Id. (quotation omitted). When the insured’s injury is caused by a third party’s violent criminal conduct, the caselaw indicates that there are two different ways in which a vehicle may be an active accessory in causing the injury.
First, the vehicle is an active accessory in causing the injury if the risk of the injury is directly related to using or maintaining the vehicle. For example, in Meric v. Mid-Century Ins. Co., the court required an insurance company to pay basic economic loss benefits because the criminal perpetrator, a robber, shot and killed the insured driver for the purpose of obtaining the insured’s van. 343 N.W.2d 688, 690 (Minn. App. 1984). The Meric court explained that the assault would not have happened if Meric had been on foot. Id. Consequently, the vehicle was an active accessory in causing the injury.
Second, the vehicle is an active accessory in causing the injury if the vehicle is used to perpetrate the crime. Klug, 415 N.W.2d at 878. In Klug, the supreme court held that using a vehicle to keep up with and shoot at another motorist makes the car an active accessory for purposes of determining whether an accident arises out of the “maintenance or use of a motor vehicle.” Id.
Applying Meric and Klug, we conclude that Blaw’s vehicle was not an active accessory in causing his injury. Blaw’s case is distinguishable from Klug because the perpetrators did not use a vehicle to cause injury to Blaw. Therefore, the district court properly concluded that, unlike the vehicle in Klug, Blaw’s minivan was not an active accessory used to cause Blaw’s injuries.
Blaw’s case is also distinguishable from Meric. Meric’s injury was directly related to his use of the vehicle. But Blaw’s injuries were only indirectly related to his maintenance of the vehicle: the men who shot Blaw may have approached him because Blaw was in a position from which he could not observe their approach, but the men did not specifically approach Blaw because he was maintaining his minivan. See Peterson, 417 N.W.2d at 318 (distinguishing case from Meric on basis that criminal acts were directed at insured personally and not intended to gain use of his car). The men who robbed Blaw could have approached any person who was preoccupied with a task and unaware of their presence to achieve the same purpose, including a person who was neither using nor maintaining a vehicle. Therefore the risk of robbery may have been directly related to Blaw’s vulnerability, but the risk was only indirectly related to the vehicle. By contrast, the criminal perpetrator in Meric could only approach a vehicle user to achieve his purpose of obtaining a vehicle; therefore the risk of carjacking was directly related to Meric’s use of his vehicle. Meric, 343 N.W.2d at 690. The fact that Blaw was shot while he was vacuuming his minivan connects the vehicle as a passive accessory, but not an active accessory, to Blaw’s injuries.
For these reasons we conclude that the first part of the Klug test excludes Blaw from obtaining benefits under the no-fault insurance statute because there is an insufficient causal link between Blaw’s injuries and the maintenance of the vehicle.
Because Blaw is precluded from obtaining benefits under the first part of the Klug analysis, we are not required to reach the remaining two factors. We note, however, that the third Klug factor is difficult to apply to “maintenance” cases because it requires the court to “determine what type of ‘use’ of the automobile was involved.” Id. at 878. Under Klug, coverage only exists “for injuries resulting from use of an automobile for transportation purposes.” Id. If this rule were strictly applied, it could severely limit coverage for maintenance-related injuries, which would be contrary to the clear intent of the statute. See Minn. Stat. § 65B.44, subd. 1(a) (requiring coverage for maintenance-related injuries). Thus, it is not entirely clear how courts should apply the third part of the Klug test to a maintenance-injury case or if it should be applied at all. See Midwest Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Karpe, 430 N.W.2d 856, 859-60 (Minn. App. 1988) (noting that third part of Klug test is less significant in maintenance cases because maintaining motor vehicle presupposes use of vehicle for transportation purposes), review denied (Minn. Dec. 21, 1988).
Finally, we address Blaw’s argument that we should analyze whether his injuries arose out of his “use” of the vehicle as well as whether they arose out of his “maintenance” of the vehicle. Blaw claims that an injury arises out of the use of a vehicle if the injury occurs while the insured is stopped between several linked trips. We conclude that a “use” analysis is unnecessary in this case for two reasons.
First, a “use” analysis in this case does not lead to a different conclusion than a “maintenance” analysis under the first part of the Klug test, the part of the test that precludes Blaw from obtaining benefits. Regardless of whether Blaw was using or maintaining the vehicle, the vehicle was not an “active accessory” in causing the injuries. Second, in other cases in which claimants have stopped using their vehicles briefly to perform maintenance, courts have limited their analysis to whether the injury arose from maintenance of the vehicle. For example, in Marklund v. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., the supreme court examined only the relationship between the insured’s injury and the maintenance of the vehicle when the insured injured himself by slipping on ice while stopped briefly at a service station to refuel. 400 N.W.2d 337, 338-40 (Minn. 1987).
On these facts Blaw is not entitled to coverage under Minnesota’s no-fault insurance statute because of an insufficient causal relationship between the vehicle and the injuries. Under the analytical framework of Klug, Blaw’s injuries did not arise out of maintenance or use of a motor vehicle.