may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Barbara M. Efteland,
Rodney G. Wold,
Filed December 22, 1998
Marshall County District Court
File No. C697373
Kenneth F. Johannson, Johannson, Taylor, Rust & Fagerlund, 407 North
Broadway, P.O. Box 605, Crookston, MN 56716 (for appellant)
Steven L. Marquart, Cahill & Marquart, P.A., 403 Center Avenue, Suite 200, P.O. Box 1238, Moorhead, MN 56561 (for respondent Holte)
Bradley J. Beehler, Morley Law Firm, Ltd., 215 North Third Street, Suite 208, P.O. Box 14519, Grand Forks, ND 58208 (for respondent Wold)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.[*]
On June 18, 1996, Barbara Efteland drove into a thick cloud of smoke coming from a fire in an adjacent grain field, and rear-ended Palmer Holte. Upon impact, Efteland's car spun into the opposing lane of traffic and was hit by Rodney Wold. Efteland sued Holte and Wold for negligence. On appeal from the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Holte, Efteland argues factual inferences bar entry of judgment as a matter of law. We affirm.
On appeal from summary judgment, we must determine whether genuine issues of material fact exist and whether the trial court erred in its application of the law. Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03; State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990). While we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the nonmovant must produce specific facts that create an issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986); Ruud v. Great Plains Supply, Inc., 526 N.W.2d 369, 371 (Minn. 1995).
Efteland argues the trial court erred in granting Holte summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact exist regarding Holte's negligence. Although determining whether a party acted negligently is typically a jury question, summary judgment is appropriate when the undisputed evidence only leads to one conclusion. Jack Frost, Inc. v. Engineered Bldg. Components Co., 304 N.W.2d 346, 350 (Minn. 1981). In this case, the undisputed facts are: (1) driving conditions on the day of the accident were hazardous; (2) the road's shoulder is gravel and three feet wide; (3) a ditch runs alongside Highway 219; (4) a witness testified that she almost drove her car off the road and into the ditch while traveling approximately 5 mph that morning; (5) Holte slowed to 3-10 mph because of the hazardous driving conditions; (6) Efteland did not reduce her speed from 40-45 mph when she approached the blanket of smoke covering the road.
Given these facts, Holte exercised reasonable care and thus was not negligent. See Hudson v. Snyder Body, Inc., 326 N.W.2d 149, 157 (Minn. 1982) (defining elements of negligence); see also Schumacher v. Heig, 454 N.W.2d 446, 449 (Minn. App. 1990) (noting duty to exercise reasonable care is dictated by exigencies of occasion and, if no harm is anticipated, there can be no negligence). Even if, however, Holte negligently operated his car on the morning of the accident, Efteland's negligence exceeded Holte's as a matter of law. Under these circumstances, the trial court properly granted Holte summary judgment. See Winge v. Minnesota Transfer Ry. Co., 294 Minn. 399, 404-05, 201 N.W.2d 259, 263-64 (1972) (recognizing trial court may direct verdict when plaintiff's negligence exceeds defendant's); Sauter v. Sauter, 244 Minn. 482, 486, 70 N.W.2d 351, 354 (1955) (holding summary judgment is appropriate when undisputed facts compel only one conclusion as matter of law).
[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.