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Schleuter v. Northern Plains Insurance Co.

September 23, 2009

RANDALL SCHLEUTER, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT
v.
NORTHERN PLAINS INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANT AND APPELLEE AND CHARLOTTE SCHLEUTER, DEFENDANT



Appeal from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Georgia Pope Dawson, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Crothers, Justice

REVERSED.

[¶1] Randall Schleuter appeals from a summary judgment dismissing his action against Northern Plains Insurance Company ("Northern Plains") for coverage for injuries arising out of an automobile accident. Because we conclude the applicable insurance policy's "out-of-state coverage" provision precludes application of the policy's "household exclusion" in order to conform to North Dakota law, we reverse.

I.

[¶2] The parties stipulated that in November 2006, Randall Schleuter was a passenger in a motor vehicle driven by his wife, Charlotte Schleuter, and owned by Randall Schleuter. Charlotte Schleuter lost control of the motor vehicle near Casselton, North Dakota, the vehicle rolled, and Randall Schleuter was injured. It is undisputed that at the time of the accident, Northern Plains, a South Dakota company, insured Schleuter's vehicle under an automobile liability policy issued in South Dakota, and the Schleuters purchased the policy while residents of South Dakota. The parties do not dispute that North Dakota's involvement with this proceeding is limited to the site of the accident and the location of Randall Schleuter's initial medical treatment. Since his release from a Fargo hospital, Randall Schleuter has received medical treatment at South Dakota facilities.

[¶3] In October 2007, Randall Schleuter sued Northern Plains and Charlotte Schleuter, alleging that Charlotte Schleuter was negligent and responsible for Randall Schleuter's injuries and declaring that Northern Plains was required under the policy to pay him no-fault benefits and was required to defend and indemnify Charlotte Schleuter for his claims. Randall Schleuter and Northern Plains filed cross-motions for summary judgment, agreeing that resolution of the insurance coverage issues would resolve the litigation.

[¶4] The liability coverage provision of Northern Plains' policy contains the following "household" or "family" exclusion:

"When Liability Coverage Does not Apply

In addition to the limitations of coverage in `Who Is an Insured'

THERE IS NO COVERAGE

"2. FOR ANY BODILY INJURY TO:

c. ANY INSURED OR ANY MEMBER OF AN INSURED'S FAMILY RESIDING IN THE INSURED'S HOUSEHOLD."

The liability coverage provision also includes an "out-of-state coverage" or "conformity" clause in a subsection entitled "Motor Vehicle Compulsory Insurance Law or Financial Responsibility Law." That provision states:

"1. Out-of-State coverage If an insured under the liability coverage is in another state or Canada and, as a non-resident, becomes subject to its motor vehicle compulsory insurance, financial responsibility or similar law:

a. the policy will be interpreted to give the coverage required by the law; and

b. the coverage so given replaces any coverage in this policy to the extent required by the law for the insured's operation, maintenance or use of a car insured under this policy.

Any coverage so extended shall be reduced to the extent other coverage applies to the accident. In no event shall a person collect more than once.

"2. Financial Responsibility Law When certified under any law as proof of future financial responsibility, and while required during the policy period, this policy shall comply with such law to the extent required."

(Emphasis added.)

[ΒΆ5] The district court granted Northern Plains' summary judgment motion, ruling South Dakota has more significant contacts and therefore South Dakota law should apply, permitting application of the policy's ...


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