may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Windsor Insurance Company,
Frederick Yolandas Cornell, et al.,
Becker Bros., Inc.,
Filed May 20, 1997
Reversed and remanded
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 962172
Steven L. Theesfeld, Yost & Baill, P.L.L.P., 2350 One Financial Plaza, 120 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for Appellant)
Gary W. Hoch, Elizabeth A. Foley, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., 4200 Multifoods Tower, 33 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.
Appellant Windsor Insurance Company, having paid benefits to a policyholder injured in an automobile collision, sued as a subrogee to establish the liability of Becker Bros., Inc., the registered owner of a vehicle involved in the collision. Windsor disputes the trial court's summary judgment that Becker had transferred its title to the vehicle prior to the accident. We reverse the trial court's summary judgment.
Respondent does not dispute that (a) Elzufon did not pay for the van, (b) there was no transfer of title before the accident, and (c) Zang, also a Becker employee, ultimately paid for the vehicle and received the title from Becker. The trial court granted summary judgment because respondent's testimony regarding the agreement to sell the van was undisputed.
Registration of a vehicle under a party's name is prima facie, but not conclusive, evidence of the party's ownership. Frye v. Anderson, 248 Minn. 478, 489, 80 N.W.2d 593, 600 (1957). A party may introduce extrinsic evidence to rebut the presumption of ownership created when the party's name appears as the owner of a vehicle on a certificate of title. Welle v. Prozinski, 258 N.W.2d 912, 916 (Minn. 1977).
Sworn testimony, even when uncontradicted, does not overcome the presumption of ownership absent a determination that the evidence is credible and otherwise persuasive. Carey v. Broadway Motors, Inc., 253 Minn. 333, 336, 91 N.W.2d 753, 755 (1958) (affirming trial court's denial of motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and holding that to show as a matter of law that someone other than the registrant is the owner of a car requires credible, conclusive evidence that cannot be doubted); see Rohling v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 309 Minn. 258, 260, 243 N.W.2d 742, 743 (1976) (reversing a directed verdict on the question of ownership where interested witnesses gave somewhat contradictory testimony); Singh v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 523 N.W.2d 348, 350 (Minn. App. 1994) (holding in case also involving conflicting ownership evidence that once testimony rebutting the presumption of ownership is challenged, there is a fact dispute that cannot be resolved by summary judgment); see also Arneson v. Integrity Mut. Ins. Co., 344 N.W.2d 617, 619 (Minn. 1984) (citing Rohling for propositions that trier of fact must determine the credibility of statements of a buyer and seller and that court may still find as a reasonable inference that the self-professed seller is the owner).
These cases compel that we recognize a need for fact-finding in this case. This result is particularly important in circumstances where evidence to rebut the presumption involves contradictions, Rohling, 309 Minn. at 260, 243 N.W.2d at 743, or otherwise suggests reasons for skepticism. Cause for our decision here is enlarged by a record showing that (a) the purported buyer of the van never paid for it, (b) the title to the van was ultimately transferred to another individual after the accident, and (c) the only testimony rebutting the presumption is from respondent's managers.
Reversed and remanded.