Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Allan D. Brant,
State Farm Mutual Automobile
Filed May 26, 1998
Reversed and remanded
St. Louis County District Court
File No. C6-96-300892
John M. Colosimo, Michelle M. Lore, Colosimo, Patchin, Aronson & Kearney, Ltd., 301 Chestnut St., Virginia, MN 55792 (for appellant)
Leif A. Nelson, Lano, Nelson, O'Toole & Bengston, Ltd., 515 N.E. Second Ave., Grand Rapids, MN 55744 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Foley, Judge.
Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Following a bench trial, the district court concluded that appellant was not entitled to uninsured motorist (UM) benefits because his injuries did not result from an "accident," but from the deliberate actions of the uninsured driver. We reverse and remand for a specific finding whether the uninsured driver actually intended to injure appellant.
Appellant Allan Brant was sitting in his truck with the motor running, parked on the street across from a bar, when Eugene DeMarrias made a U-turn, drove his vehicle into the side of Brant's truck, revved his engine, pushed Brant's truck up on the curb, backed up, and drove off. At the time of the incident, DeMarrias was in an alcoholic blackout, with a blood alcohol level of .17. He admitted that he was an alcoholic and had been through treatment. He remembered very little of the events leading up to the incident and he later pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence.
Previously that evening, DeMarrias had become friendly and attentive to a woman who had accompanied Brant to the bar. There was conflicting evidence whether DeMarrias had any social interaction with Brant.
Brant testified that he did not have any idea why DeMarrias would have wanted to intentionally hit his vehicle or injure him. DeMarrias testified that if he did hit Brant's truck it was an accident; he did not intend to harm anyone. Although DeMarrias did not remember anything about the incident, he
testified that he might have mixed up the gas and brake pedals, because he usually drove a car with a clutch, but the car he was driving had an automatic transmission and he had used two feet--his left foot for the brake and his right foot for the accelerator.
Testimony offered by one of the owners of the bar suggested that DeMarrias's acts may have been deliberate. The bartender offered conflicting testimony about her observations that evening.
D E C I S I O N
Whether there has been an "accident" for purposes of UM coverage is viewed from the perspective of the uninsured driver. McIntosh v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 488 N.W.2d 476, 479 (Minn. 1992). An accident is "simply a happening that is unexpected and unintended." Id. at 478. Therefore, if an uninsured driver intended to harm the insured, UM coverage will be denied. See id. at 479 (affirming denial of UM benefits as a result of intentional assault by uninsured driver); Wilson v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 451 N.W.2d 216, 218-19 (Minn. App. 1990) (holding that because actor's conduct was intentional, resulting injury was therefore non-accidental), review denied (Minn. Mar. 22, 1990).
Although an act itself may be intended, for the act to be considered "intentional," the driver must have also intended to injure the plaintiff. See Caspersen v. Webber, 298 Minn. 93, 96, 213 N.W.2d 327, 330 (1973). "[I]ntent may be established  by proof of an actual intent to injure or  when the character of an act is such that an intention to inflict injury can be inferred as a matter of law." Woida v. North Star Mut. Ins. Co., 306 N.W.2d 570, 573 (Minn. 1981). An act committed by a voluntarily intoxicated individual is "intentional" where the circumstances would otherwise compel an inference of an intent to injure. American Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Peterson, 405 N.W.2d 418, 422 (Minn. 1987).
As State Farm concedes, although the district court discussed the issue of DeMarrias's intent, it did not specifically find whether State Farm had proved intent. Therefore, remand is necessary for this critical finding.
Reversed and remanded.