This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. sec. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




Kevin S. Carpenter,



Fortis Benefits Insurance Company,


Filed August 11, 1998


Harten, Judge

Stearns County District Court

File No. C9-97-1595

Kevin S. Carpenter, Suite 350, Corporate Centre, 25 North Sixth Avenue, P.O. Box 745, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (appellant pro se)

Mark D. Covin, Murnane, Conlin, White, Brandt, 444 Cedar Street, Suite 1800, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Norton, Judge.*


HARTEN, Judge Appellant argues that the district court erred in granting adverse summary judgment on his claim for insurance coverage. We affirm.


On December 14, 1995, appellant Kevin S. Carpenter's daughter, A.C., overdosed on pills. She was hospitalized and released the next day. Carpenter submitted a claim to respondent Fortis Benefits Insurance Company (Fortis) for A.C.'s medical expenses. Fortis denied the claim, and Carpenter filed this breach of contract action. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Fortis, finding that an intentional act exclusion in the insurance policy precluded coverage and that the doctrines of innocent co-insured and reasonable expectations did not apply. This appeal followed.[1]


In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we must determine (1) whether genuine issues of material fact exist, and (2) whether the district court erred in applying the law. State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990). The interpretation and construction of an insurance policy are matters of law that the districtcourt properly determines on summary judgment and that we review de novo. Iowa Kemper Ins. Co. v. Stone, 269 N.W.2d 885, 886-87 (Minn.1978). The evidence is viewed 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). If an insurance policy language is unambiguous, there is no reason for construction, and the court must "attribute the usual and accepted meaning" to the language. American Commerce Ins. Brokers, Inc. v. Minnesota Mut. Fire & Cas. Co., 551 N.W.2d 224, 227-28 (Minn. 1996). Carpenter's insurance policy excludes from coverage "[i]ntentionally self-inflicted [i]njury of any kind, while sane or insane." We do not agree with Carpenter that this language is ambiguous. Under the plain meaning, a voluntary suicide attempt would constitute an intentional, self-inflicted injury. An intentional act exception to insurance coverage applies where the insured intends to cause harm, not where the insured merely intends the act. R.W. v. T.F., 528 N.W.2d 869, 872 (Minn. 1995). "[W]hen the nature and circumstances of the insured's act [are] such that harm [is] substantially certain to result," intent to harm is inferred as a matter of law. Id.

Here, the medical records reflect a voluntary and purposeful suicide attempt. In an emergency trauma center admission note, Dr. Wieker reported that A.C. "definitely was suicidal when she [took] these medications." Dr. Sundberg reported the incident as a "suicide attempt" and placed A.C. on overnight monitoring and "1 to 1 nursing with suicide precautions." Dr. Kooiker, a psychiatrist, reported that A.C. stated that when she took the pills, she "really wanted to die." Carpenter introduced no competent evidence to negate the medical records' showing of clear intent to commit suicide. Moreover, the nature of an overdose is such that injury is substantially certain to result, and therefore intent can be inferred. See R.W., 528 N.W.2d at 872 (if harm is substantially certain, intent to harm is inferred).

Carpenter argues that A.C. had been diagnosed with depression, which rendered her incapable of forming the requisite intent. We recognize that mental illness can impair a person's ability to control his or her impulses, leaving the person incapable of forming an intent to self-injure. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Wicka, 474 N.W.2d 324, 331 (Minn. 1991). But Carpenter presented no medical evidence relating impaired mental capacity or mental illness to the suicide attempt. He merely states that A.C. has received treatment for depression. Without at least minimal associated medical evidence, this fact alone is neither probative nor dispositive of A.C.'s ability to form an intent to injure and raises no genuine issue of material fact with respect to that issue. Because the only competent medical evidence presented shows a voluntary suicide attempt, the conduct falls squarely within the insurance policy's exclusion from coverage. Carpenter argued on the summary judgment motion that he is entitled to coverage under the innocent co-insured doctrine or the reasonable expectations doctrine. The parties agreed at oral argument, however, that the federal ERISA[2] applies and preempts state claims. Therefore, we do not consider the application of the aforesaid doctrines. And because ERISA preemption was not addressed by the district court, we do not consider it for the first time on appeal.


*Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] The parties agreed to proceed on this appeal in accordance with Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 132.01, subd. 5; they rely upon trial court materials supplemented by short letter argument.

[2] Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461 (1996).