may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Richard William Chalmers, judgment creditor,
Scott E. Miller, Special Administrator of the
Estate of Robert R. Kanawyer, Judgment Debtor,
State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, garnishee,
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company,
an Illinois corporation, garnishee,
Respondent (C9-96-1761, C3-96-1979).
Filed March 11, 1997
Wright County District Court
File No. C7931032
William M. Hart, Roderick D. Blanchard, Stacy A. Broman, Joseph W. E. Schmitt, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., 4200 Multifoods Tower, 33 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3788 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.[*]
After suffering severe injuries in a motor vehicle collision, Richard William Chalmers settled a tort action against the driver of the other vehicle (tortfeasor) in an intended Miller-Shugart settlement agreement. Although the tortfeasor held no insurance, Chalmers served garnishment summonses on the insurers of the tortfeasor's father-in-law (named insured), who owned the vehicle the tortfeasor was driving at the time of the accident. The trial court dismissed Chalmers's first garnishment action and denied Chalmers leave to file supplemental complaints in his latter two actions. On appeal, Chalmers argues the trial court erred as a matter of law in denying him relief under the garnishment statutes. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
The garnishment statutes serve to aid in collection of a judgment by providing a means for a judgment creditor to reach property of a judgment debtor in the hands of a garnishee. Buysse v. Baumann-Furrie & Co., 448 N.W.2d 865, 870 (Minn. 1989). A creditor initiates proceedings by service of a garnishment summons, to which the garnishee responds with a disclosure indicating whether the garnishee holds any property in which the judgment debtor has an interest. Minn. Stat. §§ 571.72, subd. 2, 571.75, subd. 1 (1996). If a garnishee denies liability, a creditor may move the court for leave to file a supplemental complaint against the garnishee, which the court must grant upon a showing of probable cause. Minn. Stat. § 571.75, subd. 4 (1996); Gudbrandsen v. Pelto, 205 Minn. 607, 609, 287 N.W. 116, 117 (1939). This appeal raises issues of law, which we review de novo. See Trondson v. Janikula, 458 N.W.2d 679, 681 (Minn. 1990) (construction of insurance contracts); Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985) (construction of statutes); Hennepin County v. Hanneman, 472 N.W.2d 149, 152 (Minn. App. 1991) (application of res judicata), review denied (Minn. Aug. 29, 1991).
By the terms of the statute, State Farm Mutual was discharged from any obligation to Chalmers 270 days after he served the garnishment summons. Although Chalmers did bring a motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint within the 270-day period, he withdrew the motion before it was considered by the trial court. Chalmers's contention that the dismissal of his motion without prejudice tolled the discharge statute indefinitely is without merit. See DeMars v. Robinson King Floors, Inc., 256 N.W.2d 501, 505 (Minn. 1977) (holding dismissal of claim without determination on merits did not toll statute of limitations). In addition, the provision in section 571.80(b) for "vacat[ion]" of a garnishee's discharge did not permit Chalmers to wait until discharge to move the trial court for leave to file a supplemental complaint. See Minn. Stat. §§ 571.80(b) (requiring that creditor's motion fulfill requirements of section 571.75, subdivision 4), 571.75, subd. 4 (permitting motion only before discharge). Rather, the statute required Chalmers to make the motion before discharge, but permitted the trial court to rule on the motion after the expiration of the 270-day period. See Minn. Stat. § 571.80(b) (allowing court to vacate garnishee's discharge). Because Chalmers did not refile a motion within the 270-day period, we conclude the trial court properly dismissed Chalmers's first garnishment action as time-barred.
After hearing the parties' arguments on the merits, the trial court dismissed Chalmers's first garnishment action with prejudice. Therefore, Chalmers's second action, against the same garnishee, the same res, and on the same grounds, was barred by res judicata. Under these circumstances, the trial court did not err in refusing to grant Chalmers leave to file a supplemental complaint in the second garnishment action.
The State Farm Fire personal liability umbrella policy covered "residents of the named insured's household" who were "related by blood, adoption, or marriage to the named insured." In construing virtually identical policy language, the supreme court recognized that "household" refers to a "social unit which is something more than a group of individuals who occasionally spend time together in the same place." Lott v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 541 N.W.2d 304, 307 (Minn. 1995) (requiring examination of connection with social unit that makes up insured's household, rather than connection with place where insured resides); see Firemen's Ins. Co. v. Viktora, 318 N.W.2d 704, 706 (Minn. 1982) (quoting Pamperin v. Milwaukee Mut. Ins. Co., 197 N.W.2d 783, 788 (Wis. 1972)) (examining whether parties lived together under same roof, in close, intimate, informal relationship, for substantial time period).
Chalmers argues the tortfeasor and his family were members of the named insured's household. However, the record demonstrates the named insured and his wife: (1) lived and worked in Arkansas at the time of the motor vehicle accident; (2) maintained title to their Minnesota house, but allowed the tortfeasor and his family to reside there indefinitely because of the family's financial difficulties; and (3) never resided in the house with the tortfeasor and his family. Given these facts, we cannot say the trial court erred in concluding Chalmers failed to establish probable cause to believe the tortfeasor might be insured as a member of the named insured's household. Therefore, the trial court properly disposed of each of Chalmers's three garnishment actions.
[ ]* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.