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State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Gruebele

Supreme Court of North Dakota

May 28, 2014

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Sandy Gruebele A.K.A. Sandy Goetz and S.G., and John Allmer, Defendants John Allmer, Appellant

Appeal from the District Court of Mercer County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Thomas J. Schneider, Judge.

AFFIRMED.

Erich M. Grant (argued) and Jason Ray Vendsel (appeared), Minot, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

Robert M. Albrecht (argued) and Denise A. Sollund (on brief), Hallock, MN, for appellant.

Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Dale V. Sandstrom, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J., Opinion of the Court by Crothers, Justice.

OPINION

Page 746

Crothers, Justice.

[¶1] John Allmer appeals a district court judgment granting State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's motion for summary judgment and denying defendants Sandy Goetz and S.G.'s motion for summary judgment and John Allmer's motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

I

[¶2] On May 15, 2011, S.G.'s 1990 Oldsmobile collided with a motorcycle driven by Allmer. S.G. was fifteen years old at the time. The parties stipulated Allmer suffered significant injuries, had medical expenses in excess of $1 million and continues to incur medical expenses for his care and treatment.

Page 747

[¶3] Goetz, S.G.'s mother, and S.G.'s father are divorced. S.G.'s father owned and insured the Oldsmobile S.G. was driving, although S.G. had exclusive possession of the car for six months prior to the accident. Her father's policy had an underlying liability limit of $250,000 and an umbrella policy of $1 million, which her father's insurance company offered in settlement of the claims against him. Goetz had an insurance policy with State Farm that listed Goetz and her 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix as covered under the policy. Goetz signed S.G.'s driver's license application sponsorship form for drivers under the age of eighteen, assuming financial liability for S.G.'s negligent acts arising from operation of a motor vehicle under sections 39-06-08 (2011) and 39-06-09 (2011), N.D.C.C.[1]

[¶4] State Farm filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing no dispute existed that S.G.'s vehicle was not covered under Goetz's policy. Goetz and S.G. filed a motion for summary judgment and Allmer filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing the language in State Farm's insurance policy should be construed to provide coverage for the accident. State Farm did not dispute Goetz was liable for S.G.'s negligent acts; therefore, the district court addressed only whether State Farm's policy provided coverage for the claim. The district court found for the purposes of Goetz's policy that S.G. was considered a " resident relative" and S.G.'s Oldsmobile was a " non-owned" vehicle. The district court determined under section 39-16.1-11, N.D.C.C., Goetz's policy was an owner's policy of liability insurance, specifically listing the covered drivers and vehicles on the policy's declarations page. The district court also determined State Farm was not required to cover S.G.'s Oldsmobile because the vehicle was not designated on the policy. The district court granted State Farm's motion for summary judgment, and denied Goetz and S.G.'s motion for summary judgment and Allmer's motion for summary judgment. Allmer appealed.

II

[¶5] " Whether summary judgment was properly granted is 'a question of law which we review de novo on the entire record.'" Zuger v. State, 2004 ND 16, ¶ 7, 673 N.W.2d 615 (citation omitted). Summary judgment:

" 'is a procedural device for the prompt resolution of a controversy on the merits without a trial if there are no disputed issues of material fact or inferences that can reasonably be drawn from undisputed facts, or if the only issues to be resolved are questions of law.' Evidence presented on a motion for summary judgment is viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and that party is given the benefit of all favorable inferences which reasonably can be drawn from the evidence. Summary judgment is appropriate 'against a party who fails to establish the existence of a factual dispute as to an essential element of his claim and on which he will bear the burden of proof at trial.' A party seeking summary judgment has the initial burden of showing that no dispute exists as to either material facts or inferences to be drawn from undisputed facts and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Page 748

If the movant meets that initial burden, the opposing party may not simply rely upon the pleadings or upon unsupported conclusory allegations, but 'must present competent admissible evidence by affidavit or other comparable means which raises an issue of material fact and must, if appropriate, draw the court's attention to relevant evidence in the record by setting out the page and line in depositions or other comparable documents containing testimony or evidence raising an issue of material fact.'"

Perius v. Nodak Mut. Ins. Co., 2010 ND 80, ¶ 9, 782 N.W.2d 355 (internal citations omitted). " The interpretation of an insurance policy is a question of law, fully reviewable on appeal." Close v. Ebertz, 1998 ND 167, ¶ 12, 583 N.W.2d 794.

III

[¶6] Allmer argues under section 39-06-09 (2011), N.D.C.C., that Goetz's signature on S.G.'s sponsorship form for her driver's license application imputed S.G.'s negligence to Goetz and created coverage for S.G.'s accident under Goetz's ...


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