may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State Farm Fire & Casualty Company,
Steffanie Mae Duel,
Filed August 25, 1998
Affirmed in part and reversed in part
Lyon County District Court
File No. C497510
John R. Rodenberg, Berens, Rodenberg & O'Connor, Chtd., 519 Center Street, P.O. Box 428, New Ulm, MN 56073 (for respondent)
Marcus J. Christianson, Christianson, Stoneberg, Giles & Stroup, P.A., 300 O'Connell Street, Marshall, MN 56258 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.*
Steffanie Duel severely injured appellant Shawn Reed by shooting him with a shotgun. Duel and Reed entered into a Miller-Shugart agreement whereby Duel agreed to a judgment against her, to be paid solely from her parents' homeowners' insurance policy issued by respondent State Farm Fire & Casualty Company.
State Farm brought a declaratory judgment action, claiming that its policy does not cover Reed's injuries. The district court granted State Farm's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Duel's act was intentional and therefore excluded from coverage. Reed appealed that decision.
The district court also concluded that there was an issue of material fact as to whether Duel was a resident relative under her parents' policy. State Farm filed a notice of review challenging that conclusion.
We affirm the court's conclusion that Duel's act was intentional, and therefore excluded from coverage. We reverse the court's decision on the resident-relative issue because the facts show that as a matter of law Duel was not a resident of her parents' household.
In January 1994, Duel's parents asked her to move out of their home. Duel, who was then 18 years old, moved into a friend's one-bedroom apartment. She brought most of her personal possessions with her, but she left her bed, dresser, and certain personal effects in her former bedroom at her parents' home.
Duel began working part-time and registered for assistance from a social services program. At Duel's request, her mother wrote a letter to the social services department stating that Duel no longer lived with her parents, and at her parents' request, Duel returned her house key to them. Thereafter, Duel visited her parents at their home approximately once a week.
In February 1994, Duel rented her own apartment. Although Duel's parents had stopped supporting her, they advanced her the money for the rental deposit. On her rental application, Duel listed her friend's apartment as her current address. She testified in her deposition that she intended to live permanently on her own and that she did not intend to live with her parents again. She moved all of her possessions, including her bed and dresser, from her parents' home into her new apartment.
On the first evening in her new apartment, Duel and her boyfriend, appellant Shawn Reed, began arguing. A neighbor called the police, who drove Reed to his apartment. A few hours later, Duel walked to Reed's apartment and awoke him by punching him.
The two resumed their argument, and Duel wielded a shotgun owned by Reed, holding it with her hand near the trigger, while the two continued to argue. Duel admitted that she knew that the gun was probably loaded and that there was a substantial probability that it could discharge. At some point during the argument, Duel held the gun against Reed's abdomen and it discharged, severely injuring Reed.
The homeowners' policy that Duel's parents purchased from State Farm excluded coverage for bodily injury intended by an insured. An insured's intent to injure may be established by: (1) proof of an actual intent to injure; or (2) evidence that the character of the act is such that intent to inflict injury may be inferred as a matter of law. Woida v. North Star Mut. Ins. Co., 306 N.W.2d 570, 573 (Minn. 1981).
While Duel denied that she intended to injure Reed, the district court concluded that Duel's intent to injure should be inferred as a matter of law. We review this conclusion de novo. See Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984) (stating that reviewing court need not defer to district court's conclusions of law).
Intent may be inferred as a matter of law "when the nature and circumstances of the insured's act were such that harm was substantially certain to result." R.W. v. T.F., 528 N.W.2d 869, 872 (Minn. 1995). We agree with the district court's conclusion that Duel intended, as a matter of law, to injure Reed because the facts clearly demonstrate that the nature and circumstances of Duel's act were such that harm was substantially certain to result. It is undisputed that, during the course of an argument with Reed, Duel held the barrel of a shotgun against Reed's stomach, with her hand near the trigger. She believed that the gun was probably loaded and knew there was "a substantial probability that the gun [could] go off." This court has inferred an intent to injure as a matter of law in other situations where an insured has fired a weapon, despite a claim that there was no actual intent to injure. See, e.g., Donovan v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 493 N.W.2d 581, 583 (Minn. App. 1992) (inferring intent to injure where husband fired loaded pistol in wife's general direction and shot her, although intending only to frighten her); Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Smith, 376 N.W.2d 506, 510 (Minn. App. 1985) (inferring intent to injure where insured fired pistol into dwelling known to be occupied, intending to scare occupant but killing occupant's mother), review denied (Minn. Jan. 17, 1986).
We affirm the district court's conclusion that coverage for Reed's injuries is precluded by the intentional-act exclusion of the State Farm policy.
2. Resident Relative.
Because of our decision on the intentional-act exclusion issue, it is not necessary to address the question of whether Duel was a resident relative insured under the State Farm policy. Nevertheless, we do so in the interest of a full analysis of the issues presented by the parties.
When the relevant facts are undisputed, the question of whether a person is a resident relative may be decided as a matter of law. See American Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Thiem, 503 N.W.2d 789, 790-91 (Minn. 1993) (concluding that undisputed facts clearly supported legal conclusion that son was resident of father's household).
Whether an alleged insured is a resident relative may be determined by examining whether the alleged insured lived under the same roof as the named insured, in a close, intimate, and informal relationship. Firemen's Ins. Co. of Newark, N.J. v. Viktora, 318 N.W.2d 704, 706 (Minn. 1982). Duration of stay in the insured's residence may also be significant. Id. at 707. Other relevant factors include the alleged insured's age, her level of self-sufficiency, the frequency and duration of her stays in the family home, whether she has established a separate residence, and, if so, whether she intends to return to the family home. Wood v. Mutual Serv. Cas. Ins. Co., 415 N.W.2d 748, 750 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1988). We must examine the parties' relationship as of the time of the incident triggering a claim for coverage. See State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Short, 459 N.W.2d 111, 114 (Minn. 1990).
The record shows that at the time of the shooting incident, Duel had moved out of her parents' home and had rented and moved into a separate residence. Although she had previously lived with her parents and continued to visit them on a weekly basis, she had moved all of her possessions from their home. She had returned to her parents her key to their home and testified that she did not intend to live with her parents again but rather intended to live permanently on her own. Although Duel had left her parents' house on previous occasions, only to return, there is no evidence that on those occasions Duel had taken her furniture and all of her personal possessions, that her parents had asked her for her house key, or that her mother had sent a letter to the social services department stating that Duel no longer lived with her parents.
The supreme court has concluded that an alleged insured was emancipated and was not insured under his parents' policy where he had rented an apartment and was financially self-sufficient. Van Overbeke v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 303 Minn. 387, 392, 227 N.W.2d 807, 810 (1975). The Van Overbeke court did not find persuasive the fact that the alleged insured had used his parents' mailing address from time to time. Id.; see also French v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 372 N.W.2d 839, 843 (Minn. App. 1985) (concluding that son was not resident of father's household where son had purposely lived away from parents' home, intended to leave for the Navy, and did not receive financial assistance from parents).
As in Van Overbeke and French, Duel had moved out of her parents' home and did not intend to return. Although Duel's parents advanced her the money for her rental deposit, they had stopped supporting her. Duel had a part-time job and was receiving other financial assistance from a social services program.
Because the undisputed facts demonstrate as a matter of law that Duel was not a resident of her parents' home at the time of the shooting, we conclude that State Farm was entitled to summary judgment on the resident-relative issue.
Affirmed in part and reversed in part.
*Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.