may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
Company, et al.,
National Casualty Insurance,
Filed March 23, 1999
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 9710178
Scott P. Drawe, Stich, Angell, Kreidler, Brownson & Ballou, P.A., The Crossings, Suite 120, 250 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2122 (for appellant)
Mark R. Kosieradzki, Kosieradzki & Associates, 601 Carlson Parkway, Suite 1150, Minnetonka, MN 55305 and
Logan N. Foreman, III, 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent Bonner)
R. Gregory Stephens, Katherine A. McBride, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., 4200 Multifoods Tower, 33 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent State Farm)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Respondent insured was abducted and robbed while sitting in a rental car. The district court determined that she is entitled to no-fault benefits to be paid by appellant rental car insurer. Because we conclude that the robbery was an intervening independent act, we hold that the insured is not entitled to benefits. We therefore reverse and do not reach the question of which insurer would be liable.
While Bonner was sitting in the rental car in downtown Minneapolis, a man with a gun got into the car and ordered Bonner to drive into an alley a few blocks away. He said, "I want your money; don't make me hurt you." When the car was stopped in the alley, he removed Bonner's rings and went through her purse to remove valuables. She then left the car on foot and notified the police. The car was recovered a few blocks away.
Bonner brought an action under the no-fault statute against State Farm and National Casualty. Both Bonner and the insurance companies sought summary judgment; Bonner claimed that her injuries arose out of the use of a motor vehicle, while the insurance companies claimed they did not. Bonner was granted summary judgment. On subsequent summary judgment motions brought by National Casualty and State Farm, the district court held that National Casualty was liable and ordered judgment for Bonner in the stipulated amount of $25,000.
On appeal, both appellant National Casualty and respondent State Farm argue that Bonner's injuries did not arise out of the use of a motor vehicle.
"Insurance coverage issues are questions of law for the court." State Farm Ins. Cos. v. Seefeld, 481 N.W.2d 62, 64 (Minn. 1992). Therefore, whether Bonner is entitled to coverage because her injuries arose out of the use of a motor vehicle is reviewed de novo. "[E]ach case presenting such a question must, to a great degree, turn on the particular facts presented." Continental W. Ins. Co. v. Klug, 415 N.W.2d 876, 877-78 (Minn. 1987) (quotation omitted).
Klug sets out three criteria for determining whether an accident arises out of the use or maintenance of a motor vehicle.
The first consideration is the extent of causation between the automobile and the injury. * * *
If a court finds the requisite degree of causation, it should next determine whether an act of independent significance occurred, breaking the causal link between "use" of the vehicle and the injuries inflicted. * * *
If a court finds the requisite degree of causation and no intervening independent act, it must consider * * * what type of "use" of the automobile was involved. * * * [C]overage should exist only for injuries resulting from use of an automobile for transportation purposes.
Id. at 878. Klug cites Edwards v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 399 N.W.2d 95, 98 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. Mar. 13, 1987), as an example of an intervening independent act. The facts in Edwards, while more grievous, were similar to those here: the insured victim was forced into a car, driven to a secluded area 60 miles way, and sexually assaulted and murdered inside the car. Id. at 96-97. Her no-fault insurer was held not liable.
[The] violent acts in this case did not arise out of his or [the victim's] use of an automobile. Rather [the] violent acts constituted events of independent significance which broke the causal link between the use of the vehicle and the injuries inflicted. * * * [The] injuries were the result of [the assailant's] violent actions and not the result of the use of his vehicle. The vehicle used by [him] was the situs of his offenses. There was no element of those offenses against [the victim] which required use of an automobile or involved risks associated with motoring.Id. at 98-99 (citations and quotations omitted). Analogously, Bonner was the victim of a crime inflicted in a car, but her injuries arose from the intervening independent acts of the assailant, not from use of the car or from a risk associated with motoring.
Bonner relies on Meric v. Mid-Century Ins. Co., 343 N.W.2d 688 (Minn. App. 1984). Meric, however, is distinguishable. In it, the insured was waiting in a van when he was seen by an individual who had just robbed a motor hotel and "saw his escape." Id. at 689. The robber opened the van door and ordered the insured out of the van at gunpoint. In the ensuing struggle, the gun went off and the insured was mortally wounded. Id. The van rolled away; the robber pursued it and then fled in it. Id.
[T]he assault would not have occurred had not the robber wanted the van as transportation. Because [the insured] was using the vehicle and refused to surrender it, the robber shot [the insured] and stole the vehicle, using it for his attempted get-away. The assault would not have happened if [the insured] had been on foot. No act of independent significance broke the causal link between use as a vehicle and [the insured's] death; the van was, therefore, an active accessory in the death.
Id. at 690. Here, there were acts of independent significance because the robber wanted money, not a car. He told Bonner he wanted her money, took the money, and abandoned the car. If Bonner had been on foot in the alley or some other reasonably secluded spot, the robbery, like the sexual assault and murder in Edwards, could have occurred without a car. Bonner's reliance on Meric is misplaced.
The acts that injured Bonner were independent acts that intervened between the use of the car and her injuries; her injuries did not arise out of the use of a vehicle. We reverse the decision that she is entitled to no-fault compensation.
 On the motion of National Casualty and State Farm, the district court certified as an important and doubtful question whether Bonner's injuries arose out of the use of a motor vehicle and National Casualty and State Farm appealed. The appeal was dismissed on the grounds that the question was not certifiable. See Bonner v. State Farm, No. C1-98-219, C8-98-234 (Minn. App. July 7, 1998).
 Other cases with comparable fact patterns have also held that an insured who is the victim of a crime or accident in or near a car may not recover under a no-fault policy. See, e.g. Tlougan v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 310 N.W.2d 116, 117 (Minn. 1981) (when a child was injured playing with matches in the cab of a pickup truck, the truck was not an "active accessory of the injury" but only the situs of the incident); State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Strope, 481 N.W.2d 853, 856 (Minn. App. 1992) (when insured, riding in truck driven by her husband, was injured by a gun, "[n]either the movement of the truck [nor the husband's] continued operation of the vehicle caused or actively contributed to the discharge of the rifle."), review denied (Minn. May 15, 1992); Lindsey v. Sturm, 436 N.W.2d 788, 791 (Minn. App. 1989) (when an insured who was outside his car was insured in a battery by another driver whose car the insured had arranged to have towed, "the causal link between the car and the injury is extremely attenuated, and we find that the battery easily breaks that link."); review denied (Minn. May 3, 1989); Peterson v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 417 N.W.2d 316, 319 (Minn. App. 1988) (when an insured who had stopped to ask directions was forced into an assailant's car, driven several miles, and fatally strangled, the car was not an active accessory in his injuries, the abduction was an act of independent significance breaking the causal link between use of the car and the injuries, and the injuries did not result from the use of the car for transportation purposes), review denied (Minn. Mar. 30, 1988); Wieneke v. Home Mut. Ins. Co., 397 N.W.2d 597, 600 (Minn. App. 1986) (when an insured, seated in his vehicle at a stoplight, is injured in a fistfight with the driver of another vehicle, the "injuries were not actively connected to the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle [but] resulted from [the other driver] punching [the insured] in the nose."), review denied (Minn. Jan. 21, 1987); Fire & Cas. Ins. Co v. Illinois Farmers Ins. Co., 352 N.W.2d 798, 800 (Minn. App. 1984) (when an insured was injured because his hunting partner's gun discharged as it was being loaded on the seat of a car, the insured "was shot because [his companion] was in a hurry to start hunting, not because of any use of the vehicle as a vehicle. The vehicle was the mere situs of the accident," and the careless loading of the gun was an independent event breaking the causal connection between the use of the vehicle and the injury) (citation omitted).