may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat.§ 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
James A. Meehan,
1st Nationwide Mortgage,
f/k/a Standard Federal Savings Bank,
Prudential Life Insurance Co. of America,
Liberty Life Insurance Company,
Filed August 5, 1997
Affirmed, Motions Denied
Beltrami County District Court
File No. C3951421
Kenneth D. Butler, Clure, Eaton, Butler, Michelson, Ferguson & Munger, P.A., 222 West Superior Street, Suite 200, Duluth, MN 55802 (for Respondent Prudential Life Insurance Company of America)
Charles R. Powell, Heidi M. Fisher, Powell & Powell, 713 Beltrami Avenue, P.O. Box 908, Bemidji, MN 56601-0908 (for Respondent Liberty Life Insurance Company)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.[*]
Appellant James Meehan appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondents Prudential Insurance Company of America (Prudential) and Liberty Life Insurance Company (Liberty Life), contending the trial court erred in concluding Prudential's death and dismemberment insurance contract did not cover the injury sustained by appellant. We affirm.
The Minnesota Supreme Court, in the context of an accident insurance policy, has concluded that use of the word "actual" to qualify "severance" in the phrase "loss [of limb] by actual severance" evidences a deliberate intent to restrict the meaning of the term "severance" to physical rather than functional severance. Juhlin v. Life Ins. Co. of North America, 301 N.W.2d 59, 60 (Minn. 1980). Additionally, where the policy restricted coverage to physical severance, the supreme court refused to find coverage in the absence of a severe wounding of the limb. See id. at 61 (refusing to find coverage where insured lost use of his legs because of a spinal injury and subsequent paralysis).
Applying Juhlin, we conclude that under Prudential's accidental death and dismemberment policy, "loss by severance at or above the wrist or ankle" is limited to physical severance rather than functional severance. This conclusion is consistent with the majority of other jurisdictions. See, e.g., Morgan v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 545 P.2d 1193, 1196, 86 Wash. 2d 432 (Wash. 1976) (language "loss by severance of both hands at or above the wrist" requires substantial severance of the limb); Horvatin v. Allstate Life Ins. Co., 631 F. Supp. 1271, 1275 (C.D. Cal. 1986) (holding that language severance at or above ankle in the death and dismemberment policy was unambiguous and required physical separation of part of the limb itself); Perry v. Connecticut Gen. Life. Ins. Co., 531 F. Supp. 625, 627 (E.D. Va. 1982) (holding language "loss of use of one foot by severance at or above ankle" requires physical severance). Further, given the ordinary meaning of the term "dismemberment," coverage under an accidental death and dismemberment policy cannot reasonably be construed to include functional losses occurring without any cutting or wounding of a limb. See Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary 527 (2nd ed. 1983) (defining dismember as "to tear limb from limb; to separate a member or members from").
As in Juhlin, Prudential unambiguously restricted coverage to losses of limb by physical severance. Because appellant does not allege severance of the spinal cord or severe wounding or cutting of his limbs, appellant's functional loss of limbs is not covered under the Prudential policy. Consequently, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Prudential and Liberty Life.
Affirmed, motions denied.
[ ]* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.