This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. §. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Rail Systems, Inc.,
John Glieden, et al.,
Travelers Insurance Company,
Filed August 27, 1996
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 95-10233
Gay B. Urness, Joslin & Urness, P.A., 221 Northwest Second Avenue, Cambridge, MN 55008 (for Appellant)
Brian Ross Melendez, Faegre & Benson, 2200 Norwest Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3901 (for Respondents Glieden, et al)
Thomas J. Niemiec, Jeffer Ali, Bassford, Lockhart, Truesdell & Briggs, P.A., 3550 Multifoods Tower, 33 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3787 (for Respondent Travelers)
Considered and decided by Parker, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Foley, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Rail Systems challenges summary judgment for respondent Travelers Insurance, arguing the trial court incorrectly found that the insurance policy issued by respondent did not provide Minnesota workers' compensation coverage for one of appellant's employees who was injured in Minnesota, and that respondent was not estopped from denying coverage because of its alleged mishandling of a subrogation claim. We reverse.
Appellant, a Wisconsin corporation, brought suit against respondent as a result of respondent's denial of insurance coverage for the Minnesota workers' compensation claim of one of appellant's employees. The employee was injured on November 12, 1990, in a truck/auto accident that occurred in Minnesota and in the course and scope of the individual's employment with appellant. Appellant also sued its insurance agents, asserting that they were negligent in their procurement of appellant's insurance coverage; these claims are pending in district court.
Appellant and respondent brought cross motions for summary judgment. Appellant argued it was entitled to reimbursement for its employee's Minnesota workers' compensation claim pursuant to the "Other States Insurance" coverage in its policy with respondent and that, in the alternative, respondent was estopped from denying such reimbursement by reason of its negligent handling of the employee's workers' compensation claim; respondent's negligence allegedly arose from its failure to assert or otherwise preserve a dram shop subrogation claim arising out of the accident. Respondent maintained that its policy did not provide coverage for the employee's Minnesota workers' compensation claim. The trial court granted summary judgment on the insurance coverage issue in favor of respondent and denied appellant's estoppel claim.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal from a grant of summary judgment the reviewing court must determine whether any genuine issues of material fact exist and whether the district court erred in its application of the law.
State by Cooper v. French
, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990). Insurance coverage issues are legal questions, and a reviewing court need not defer to a lower court's determination of a purely legal question.
State Farm Ins. Cos. v. Seefeld
, 481 N.W.2d 62, 64 (Minn. 1992). Insurance contracts are construed as a whole, and unambiguous language is given its plain and ordinary meaning.
Any ambiguity in an insurance contract must be interpreted in favor of the insured.
Hubred v. Control Data Corp.
, 442 N.W.2d 308, 310 (Minn. 1989).
The "Wisconsin Limited Other States Insurance Endorsement" in appellant's policy with respondent at the time of the accident provided:
This endorsement applies only to the insurance provided by the policy because
Wisconsin is shown in Item 3.A. of the Information Page.
2. When other states insurance is applicable, we will reimburse you for the benefits you are required to pay under the Workers' Compensation Law of the applicable state.
"PART THREE - OTHER STATES INSURANCE" is amended to read as follows:
1. Other states insurance applies in all states except Wisconsin and those states having a monopolistic state fund.
Appellant argues the "Wisconsin Limited Other States Insurance Endorsement" requires respondent to reimburse appellant for all benefits appellant is required to pay its injured employee pursuant to the workers' compensation laws of the state of Minnesota. Appellant points to the part of the endorsement reading "Other states insurance applies in all states except Wisconsin and those states having a monopolistic state fund." Appellant deduces from this provision that since Minnesota is not Wisconsin and since Minnesota does not have a monopolistic state fund, "Other States Insurance" applies in Minnesota, thereby obligating the insurer to reimburse the insured for the benefits the insured is required to pay under the worker's compensation laws of the State of Minnesota. In addition, appellant argues that if the policy only provides coverage for Wisconsin workers' compensation claims then the "Wisconsin Limited Other States Insurance Endorsement" becomes meaningless. It is noteworthy that the policy endorsement was amended the year following the accident specifically to exclude Minnesota from coverage.
IMPORTANT! IF YOU BEGIN WORK IN ANY STATE OTHER THAN WISCONSIN, YOU MUST OBTAIN INSURANCE COVERAGE IN THAT STATE AND DO WHATEVER ELSE MAY BE REQUIRED UNDER THAT STATE'S LAW, AS "WISCONSIN LIMITED OTHER STATES" INSURANCE DOES NOT SATISFY THE REQUIREMENT OF THAT STATE'S WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW.
We conclude that the policy endorsement in force at the time of the accident was contradictory and ambiguous, requiring reversal of summary judgment.
442 N.W.2d at 310 (stating that any ambiguity in an insurance contract must be interpreted in favor of the insured). For instance, part of the endorsement implies that coverage would apply in Minnesota because it does not have a monopolistic state fund, but subsequent language in the endorsement indicates otherwise. Respondent cites
Wallin v. Croix Carriers, Inc.
, 1991 WL 109355 (Minn. Workers' Comp. Ct. App. 1991),
aff'd without pub. op.
, 472 N.W.2d 871 (Minn. 1991), but it does not control in this case, as it addresses only a portion of the policy language that is present here.
Appellant also contends that respondent is estopped from denying coverage for the injured employee's workers' compensation claim because respondent negligently managed the workers' compensation claim by failing to assert or otherwise preserve a dram shop subrogation claim; the statute of limitations ran on the dram shop action on or about November 12, 1992. The trial court denied the estoppel claim. We concur in that ruling.
Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.