Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
as Trustee for the heirs and next of kin of
Andrew Prokott, decedent,
St. Paul Guardian Insurance Company,
File No. C39511879
J. Mark Catron, Autumn L. Anderson, Hansen, Dordell, Bradt, Odlaug & Bradt, P.L.L.P., 3900 Northwoods Drive, Suite 250, St. Paul, MN 55112-6973 (for appellant)
Jeffrey J. Bouslog, Kevin R. Lewis, Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly LLP, 1700 West First Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Schumacher, Judge.
Appellant Joseph Buchmeier, as trustee for the heirs and next-of-kin of Andrew Prokott, challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondent St. Paul Guardian Insurance Company in appellant's garnishment claim seeking insurance coverage pursuant to a Miller-Shugart agreement. Appellant contends the district court erred in concluding that defendant Jerome Prokott's global coverage under an insurance policy with respondent does not cover the deceased's snowmobile accident on a vacant lot adjoining the insured property. We affirm.
"The interpretation and construction of an insurance policy is a matter of law," and an appellate court may determine de novo whether the district court "properly interpreted and applied the law to the facts presented." State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Budget Rent-A-Car Sys., Inc., 359 N.W.2d 673, 675-76 (Minn. App. 1984). "[A]n insurer denying coverage because of a policy exclusion bears the burden of proof," and "insurance exclusion clauses [are] strictly interpreted against the insurer." Reinsurance Ass'n v. Patch, 383 N.W.2d 708, 711 (Minn. App. 1986). However, where the language of an insurance policy is unambiguous, "courts must give the language its ordinary meaning and not redraft the contract." National Farmers Union Property & Cas. Co. v. Anderson, 372 N.W.2d 71, 74 (Minn. App. 1985).
The district court properly relied on the following provision regarding coverage for use of a motor vehicle when determining there was no liability coverage:
PAK II covers you and your family for any liability caused through the use of any motor vehicle you or they own or lease that is listed on the Coverage Summary.
(Emphasis added.) It is undisputed that the snowmobile involved in the accident here, while qualifying under the policy as a motor vehicle, is not listed on the coverage summary. Appellant contends, however, that there is coverage under another provision that provides liability coverage for certain nonlisted motor vehicles:
Some motor vehicles are covered by PAK II even if they are not listed on the Coverage Summary. They are:
Off road recreational vehicles while used on your premises or land covered by PAK II.
Appellant argues the district court erred in determining there is no coverage under this provision because the location where the accident occurred, the vacant lot adjoining Prokott's residence, is not part of Prokott's "premises" for purposes of this section. We disagree.
Neighboring land used for recreation is not considered "premises" for insurance purposes. Illinois Farmers Ins. Co. v. Coppa, 494 N.W.2d 503, 506 (Minn. App. 1993). In Coppa, a guest of the insured was injured while riding an all-terrain vehicle through a hayfield adjacent to the insured's premises. Id. at 504. The Coppa court found no coverage stating:
It is not reasonable to expect that every field or pathway in the neighborhood leading to the insureds' residence is property "used in connection with" the residence.
Id. at 506. The policy in Coppa had a more expansive definition of insured premises than respondent's policy, in that coverage was provided for "[a]ny premises used by you in connection with the [residence] premises." Id. at 505. Therefore, we conclude the district court here properly determined the accident did not occur on Prokott's premises.
Appellant further argues that there is coverage under the homeowner's section of Prokott's insurance policy because the accident was caused by a negligent act, namely Prokott's entrustment of a snowmobile to an unqualified juvenile, that occurred on Prokott's property. We disagree. This court has declined to extend to an insurer the obligation to defend or indemnify its insureds with respect to claims arising out of allegations regarding the insureds' negligent entrustment of an automobile to their son. Fillmore v. Iowa Nat'l Mut. Ins. Co., 344 N.W.2d 875, 877-78 (Minn. App. 1984). The Fillmore court concluded that liability for negligent entrustment "is not actually triggered until the motor vehicle is used in a negligent manner, resulting in injury" and
since the accident occurred off the homeowner's premises and resulted from the use or operation of a motor vehicle, the clear language of the exclusionary clause disavows coverage.
Id. at 878. Therefore, as in Fillmore, because the accident here occurred off Prokott's premises, and is not covered under the motor vehicle liability provisions of the policy, we conclude the district court properly determined that coverage under the homeowner's section of the policy is not available.
In conclusion, while insurance contracts are inherently complex, the district court properly determined that the policy at issue here is not ambiguous. Under the plain language of the policy, the snowmobile had to be listed for there to be coverage for accidents occurring off the premises. Additionally, the plain meaning of the word "premises" as previously construed by this court does not include adjacent land that is neither listed in the policy nor owned by the insured. Finally, homeowner coverage under a negligence theory is not available for a motor vehicle accident that occurs off the insured's premises.