This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




Daniel J. Scheibel,



Illinois Farmers Insurance Company,

an Illinois corporation,


Filed June 15, 1999


Willis, Judge

Sherburne County District Court

File No. C49810

Gary T. LaFleur, Traci M. Ranallo, Babcock, Locher, Neilson & Mannella, 118 East Main Street, Anoka, MN 55303 (for appellant)

Thomas S. McEachron, Votel, Anderson & McEachron, 1250 Piper Jaffray Plaza, 444 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Schumacher, Judge.



Appellant Daniel J. Scheibel challenges adverse summary judgment, claiming he is entitled to recover no-fault benefits from his insurer, respondent Illinois Farmers Insurance Company, for medical expenses and income loss that an arbitrator found are, in part, causally related to the first of two motor-vehicle accidents in which he was involved. We affirm.


Scheibel sustained personal injuries in two separate motor-vehicle accidents, which occurred on March 19, 1996, and May 17, 1996. He injured his neck in the March accident. The May accident exacerbated the injury, which required surgery and resulted in lost income. A no-fault arbitrator found that Scheibel's medical expenses and lost income were causally related to both accidents, attributing 35% of his losses to the March accident and 65% to the May accident.

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the parties submitted the question of Scheibel's right to receive no-fault benefits from Illinois Farmers for the March accident to the district court. The court granted Illinois Farmers's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Scheibel "is entitled to recover only compensable no-fault benefits which are payable due to the second accident." This appeal followed.[1]


The district court concluded that apportionment of no-fault benefits between the two accidents was not appropriate and, because only one accident can be the cause of an injury, that benefits should be payable only for the May accident, citing Great West Cas. Co. v. Northland Ins. Co., 548 N.W.2d 279, 281 & n.4 (Minn. 1996). Scheibel agrees that benefits should not be apportioned between the accidents but claims that he is entitled to recover benefits from Illinois Farmers for losses that the arbitrator found are, in part, causally related to the March accident.

On appeal from summary judgment, this court asks "(1) whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and (2) whether the [district court] erred in [its] application of the law." State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990) (citation omitted). In addition, we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment was granted. Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993).

When material facts are not in dispute, a reviewing court need not defer to the district court's application of the law. Hubred v. Control Data Corp., 442 N.W.2d 308, 310 (Minn. 1989). The construction of a statute is a question of law, subject to de novo review. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985).

The no-fault act provides for the reimbursement of basic economic loss benefits "for all loss suffered through injury arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle." Minn. Stat. § 65B.44, subd. 1 (1998). The act defines loss as "economic detriment resulting from the accident causing the injury." Minn. Stat. § 65B.43, subd. 7 (1998). Thus, only one accident can be the cause of an injury that results in a loss. See Great West, 548 N.W.2d at 281 (stating that, for subrogation purposes, only one accident can be deemed to be cause of injury); see also Rodgers v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 499 N.W.2d 61, 63 (Minn. App. 1993) (indicating that only economic detriment from "`the accident' causing the injury" should be reimbursed) (interpreting Minn. Stat. § 65B.43, subd. 7), review denied (Minn. June 22, 1993).

In Rodgers, we apportioned no-fault benefits and held that an insurer was required to compensate its insured only for injuries arising out of a 1991 motor-vehicle accident and not for pre-existing injuries arising out of a 1990 accident. 499 N.W.2d at 63 (involving insurer providing insured with coverage at time of both accidents). In Great West, the supreme court disagreed with the concept of apportionment of benefits and, instead, placed the "entire responsibility" for the insured's loss on the insurer who provided coverage at the time of the second accident, explaining that the result "is neither unfair nor unjust" and avoids "finger pointing" between insurers. 548 N.W.2d at 281 & n.4 (noting that decision "cast a long shadow over" holding in Rodgers). The supreme court concluded that an insurer cannot refuse to pay no-fault benefits for that portion of an insured's injuries caused by a previous accident or seek subrogation from a prior insurer. Id. at 281 (stating that insurer accepts "insured with whatever physical condition he may have had at that time").

Scheibel seeks to recover no-fault benefits for losses incurred after the May accident. But he attributes those losses to the March accident, arguing that because a no-fault arbitrator found his medical expenses and lost income are, in part, causally related to that accident, he is entitled to recover such benefits from Illinois Farmers. He further asserts that Great West is factually distinguishable from this case and that the supreme court's decision does not address specifically the issue presented here.

But under Scheibel's interpretation of the no-fault act, any number of motor-vehicle accidents could be the cause of an insured's injury, allowing for a separate recovery of benefits to a policy's limits in each instance. And only one accident, the May accident, can be the cause of Scheibel's neck injury that resulted in the losses for which he now seeks to recover no-fault benefits.[2] See id. at 281 (placing entire responsibility for loss on insurer providing coverage at time of second accident); see also Minn. Stat. § 65B.43, subd. 7 (defining loss as "economic detriment resulting from the accident causing the injury").

Unlike Great West, this case does not involve a subrogation claim. See 548 N.W.2d at 281 (concluding that no-fault insurer had no right to seek subrogation from prior insurer where insured's physical condition was caused, in part, by prior accident). But Scheibel makes a similar claim against Illinois Farmers on his own behalf. We therefore conclude that the supreme court's analysis is applicable here because it avoids the apportionment of causation between or among multiple accidents and provides a clear rule regarding the recovery of no-fault benefits.

Based on our reading of Great West and the no-fault act, the district court correctly concluded that Scheibel is entitled to recover no-fault benefits only for his losses arising out of the May accident. Because there are no genuine issues of material fact and because the district court did not err in its application of the law, we affirm summary judgment for Illinois Farmers.


[1] Essentially, Scheibel seeks up to twice his policy's limits for no-fault medical benefits and income loss on the ground that he had two accidents. Illinois Farmers paid $3,588 for Scheibel's medical expenses following the March accident. Scheibel then exhausted the policy's $20,000 limit for medical expenses following the May accident. But because he did not reach the policy's $20,000 limit for medical expenses following the March accident, Scheibel seeks to recover benefits for additional medical expenses that the arbitrator found are, in part, causally related to the March accident. And although the policy's limit is $250 per week for income loss, and Scheibel missed no work until after the May accident, he claims a right to $500 per week for income loss.

[2] Illinois Farmers has already paid the policy's limits for Scheibel's medical expenses and income loss following the May accident.