may not be cited except as provided by
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Allan D. Brant,
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company,
Filed June 15, 1999
St. Louis County District Court
File No. C696300892
John M. Colosimo, Carla J. Lindell, Colosimo, Patchin, Aronson & Kearney, Ltd., 301 Chestnut St., Virginia, MN 55792 (for appellant)
Leif A. Nelson, Lano, Nelson, O'Toole & Bengtson, Ltd., 515 N.E. Second Ave., Grand Rapids, MN 55744 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court's entry of judgment denying uninsured motorist insurance coverage. The district court found the collision was not an "accident," but an intentional act of the uninsured driver. We affirm.
In February 1995, while appellant Allan D. Brant was sitting in his truck parked across the street from a bar he had patronized, Eugene DeMarrias, another patron of the bar that evening, got in his own vehicle, made a partial U-turn, and drove into appellant's truck. Although neither vehicle was seriously damaged, appellant sustained injuries. DeMarrias claimed he was very intoxicated at the time of the incident and did not recall most of what happened that evening. (He had a blood-alcohol concentration of .17.)
Because DeMarrias was an uninsured driver, appellant made an uninsured motorist claim to respondent State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. State Farm denied the claim, contending there had been no "accident," as required by the State Farm policy. Appellant initiated this action after respondent denied his claim.
At trial, there was conflicting testimony about the actual events of the evening. DeMarrias, by deposition, testified that, if he hit appellant's truck, it was an accident and that he did not intend to injure anyone. But trial testimony of other witnesses indicated that, while in the bar, DeMarrias had been pestering appellant's companion. The witnesses also testified that, shortly after appellant left the bar, DeMarrias went to his own car, yelled and gestured at appellant, drove his car into appellant's truck, revved his engine, pushed appellant's truck further toward the curb, and then drove off. The owner of the bar, an eyewitness, testified that DeMarrias's actions "seemed pretty deliberate."
The district court found that appellant's claim was properly denied. On appellant's first appeal to this court, the judgment was reversed and remanded for a specific finding as to whether DeMarrias intended to injure appellant. On July 30, 1998, the district court held another hearing and issued a new order adopting its previous findings and conclusions, and adding a conclusion that DeMarrias's intent to injure appellant could be inferred from the nature of his actions. Judgment was entered against appellant, and this second appeal followed.
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is purchased to pay damages that would normally be paid by the uninsured driver's liability carrier, if that driver had such coverage. McIntosh v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 488 N.W.2d 476, 479 (Minn. 1992). In light of this fact, when deciding a claim for UM coverage, the question whether there has been an "accident" is viewed from the perspective of the uninsured driver. Id. Therefore, if an uninsured driver intended to harm the insured, UM coverage will be denied. See id. (affirming denial of UM benefits for intentional assault by uninsured driver).
[I]ntent may be established  by proof of an actual intent to injure or  when the character of an act is such that an intention to inflict injury can be inferred as a matter of law.
Woida v. North Star Mut. Ins. Co., 306 N.W.2d 570, 573 (Minn. 1981). In other words, even if there is not direct proof of a subjective intent to injure, the court may infer that intent as a matter of law from "the character of the act." Iowa Kemper Ins. Co. v. Stone, 269 N.W.2d 885, 887 (Minn. 1978).
The district court's finding that DeMarrias intended to injure Brant will not be reversed unless clearly erroneous. See Farmers Ins. Group v. Hastings, 366 N.W.2d 293, 294 (Minn. 1985) (applying clearly erroneous standard in review of district court's inference of intent).
DeMarrias testified that he did not intend to injure Brant. But the district court previously found that DeMarrias's statements were not credible and that, in light of all the testimony, DeMarrias's acts were deliberate. We give due deference to the district court's credibility determinations. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.
Appellant and two eyewitnesses all testified that DeMarrias was yelling at appellant and that he drove his car directly into appellant's truck. Additionally, one of these eyewitnesses, a bartender, also testified that DeMarrias was leaning out the window of his car, pointing and gesturing toward appellant, and that she heard him say that appellant "was in trouble." The bar owner testified that DeMarrias, before hitting appellant's truck, yelled at her that she should call the police. At trial, appellant noted that DeMarrias kept revving the engine and pushing the truck toward the curb, even after the initial contact.
The district court specifically found that DeMarrias was intoxicated at the time of the incident, and appellant argues this precludes intent. But voluntary intoxication does not always preclude intent. See American Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Peterson, 405 N.W.2d 418, 422 (Minn. 1987) (intent to injure inferred, even though insured had no independent recollection of his actions and had experienced blackouts when drinking). We agree with the district court that DeMarrias's actions were of such a character that his intent to injure appellant can be inferred as a matter of law.