Hollingsworth v. Schminkey, No. 95-1331

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtConsidered by McGIVERIN; ANDREASEN
Citation553 N.W.2d 591
PartiesSteve HOLLINGSWORTH and Cheryl Hollingsworth, Appellants, v. Rodney A. SCHMINKEY, Steven D. Woodford, Susan C. Woodford, and State Farm Automobile Insurance Company, Appellees.
Decision Date18 September 1996
Docket NumberNo. 95-1331

Page 591

553 N.W.2d 591
Steve HOLLINGSWORTH and Cheryl Hollingsworth, Appellants,
v.
Rodney A. SCHMINKEY, Steven D. Woodford, Susan C. Woodford, and State Farm Automobile Insurance Company, Appellees.
No. 95-1331.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Sept. 18, 1996.

Page 593

Donald G. Beattie and Ed Skinner of Skinner & Beattie, P.C., Altoona, for appellants.

Michael H. Adams, Des Moines, for appellee Schminkey.

Stanley J. Thompson of Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees Woodfords.

Mark L. Tripp and Karl T. Olson of Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, P.C., Des Moines, for appellee State Farm.

Considered by McGIVERIN, C.J., and LARSON, CARTER, SNELL, and ANDREASEN, JJ.

ANDREASEN, Justice.

Steve Hollingsworth alleges he suffered injuries on February 13, 1993, while rescuing Rodney A. Schminkey from his burning uninsured station wagon. Hollingsworth 1 brought suit against (1) his insurer State Farm Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm), (2) Rodney A. Schminkey, and (3) Steven D. and Susan C. Woodford. Hollingsworth's suit against State Farm arose from the uninsured motorist coverage provisions of the insurance policy issued to him. His suit against Schminkey alleges a tort claim based on the negligent operation and maintenance of his vehicle. His suit against the Woodfords alleges a tort claim based on premises liability.

Hollingsworth filed a motion for adjudication of law points against State Farm. See Iowa R.Civ.P. 105. State Farm filed a resistance to Hollingsworth's motion and filed a separate motion for summary judgment against Hollingsworth. Following a hearing, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of State Farm.

Schminkey and the Woodfords then filed motions for summary judgment, which were resisted by Hollingsworth. Following a hearing, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Schminkey and the Woodfords.

Hollingsworth filed timely notice of appeal as to the court's rulings and summary judgments. We reverse in part and affirm in part the summary judgment granted to State Farm; we reverse the summary judgment granted to Schminkey; and we affirm the summary judgment granted to the Woodfords.

Page 594

I. Summary Judgment.

A party moving for summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Iowa R.Civ.P. 237(c). In ruling upon the motion, the court considers the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits, if any. Id. When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided by the rule, an adverse party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of the party's pleadings, but the party's response, by affidavit or otherwise provided, must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Iowa R.Civ.P. 237(e). We view the record in the light most favorable to the party against whom the summary judgment was granted. Ruden v. Jenk, 543 N.W.2d 605, 607 (Iowa 1996).

II. Background.

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on February 13, 1993, Hollingsworth, along with his neighbor, was traveling west on East University Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa. As they approached the Schminkey residence, they observed smoke coming from the rear of the residence. They stopped to investigate and found that a station wagon, which had collided with the corner of the garage, was on fire.

Upon closer inspection they discovered Schminkey in the front seat, slumped over the steering wheel. They were unable to arouse him. With difficulty, because Schminkey weighed approximately 250 pounds, they removed him from the vehicle and carried him towards the rear of the residence. As the fire spread and became more intense, they carried him to the end of the driveway. A short time later Schminkey was taken to the hospital. Hollingsworth allegedly injured his back while removing Schminkey from his car and carrying him to safety.

Earlier that evening, Schminkey had taken his wife and three children shopping. The driveway from his garage was slippery and rutted. Apparently the muffler on his station wagon was damaged due to the ruts in the driveway. While traveling in the station wagon, one of Schminkey's daughters became ill. Schminkey was not aware that his muffler and tail pipe had been damaged and that carbon monoxide was being emitted into the vehicle. He then drove to a nearby hospital. Before arriving at the hospital, another daughter became ill. When they arrived at the emergency entrance of the hospital, the two children were admitted for treatment. Physicians determined the illness was a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Schminkey's wife stayed at the hospital with their two daughters, and their son went with his grandmother to her home.

Schminkey decided to drive the station wagon home that evening. His plan was to have the muffler fixed the following morning. He rolled down the window in the station wagon and started home at approximately 10:00 p.m. He remembered driving to his home and pulling into the driveway. The next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital where he was hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Although Hollingsworth did not recall whether the engine was running when he arrived, the officer at the scene prepared an investigative report which noted that after the station wagon struck the corner of the garage, "the vehicle remained running, the left rear tire of the vehicle had spun until it caught fire, engulfing the vehicle and the garage."

The Schminkey family had lived at the location of the incident for several years before the accident. The record title to the property was in Woodfords' name. When the Schminkeys had first moved to this location, they were tenants. In 1991, the Woodfords apparently sold the property to Schminkeys on contract. The contract provided that the buyers were responsible for keeping the improvements in good and reasonable repair.

III. Claims Against State Farm.

Hollingsworth was the named insured under a State Farm car policy that provided $100,000 of uninsured motor vehicle coverage. The policy provided:

Page 595

We will pay damages for bodily injury an insured is legally entitled to collect from the owner or driver of an uninsured motor vehicle. The bodily injury must be caused by an accident arising out of the operation, maintenance or use of an uninsured motor vehicle.

Hollingsworth alleges in his petition that he was injured as a result of Schminkey's negligent operation and maintenance of his uninsured vehicle. He claims: (1) State Farm breached the terms of the contract in refusing to pay the benefits provided by the policy, (2) State Farm was negligent in failing to pay the benefits and in investigating and determining his policy claim, and (3) State Farm's conduct, in failing to pay benefits and in investigating and determining his claim, was in bad faith. Hollingsworth asks for both compensatory and punitive damages in his negligent breach of contract and bad faith claims.

A. Contract Claim.

In its ruling on State Farm's motion for summary judgment, the district court found "there must be a causal connection, less than the notion of proximate cause, between the use, operation, or maintenance of the uninsured vehicle and the injury." Under the record before it, the court found Schminkey's vehicle was a "but for" cause of Hollingsworth's injury. However, the court concluded "the injury was caused by lifting Schminkey, it was not directly caused by Schminkey's use or maintenance of the car."

Determining the legal effect of an insurance policy is a question of law for the court. Hornick v. Owners Ins. Co., 511 N.W.2d 370, 371 (Iowa 1993). We are not bound by the district court's determination of the law or the conclusions reached by the court from the undisputed facts. See Falczynski v. Amoco Oil Co., 533 N.W.2d 226, 230 (Iowa 1995). If the district court applied erroneous rules of law which materially affected its decision, we will reverse. Id. On appeal, our task is to determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists and whether the law was correctly applied. Red Giant Oil Co. v. Lawlor, 528 N.W.2d 524, 528 (Iowa 1995).

When construing the uninsured motorist provisions of an auto policy, we review both the language of the policy and the provisions of section 516A.1 of the Iowa Code. Hornick, 511 N.W.2d at 372. The terms of the policy are read together with the terms of the statute, which form a basic part of the policy, to effectuate the intent of the contracting parties. Mewes v. State Farm Auto. Ins. Co., 530 N.W.2d 718, 722 (Iowa 1995). Under the statute, protection is extended to persons "who are legally entitled to recover damages from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle ... because of bodily injury ... caused by accident and arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of such uninsured ... motor vehicle." Iowa Code § 516A.1 (1993). Here, the language of the policy and the statute are substantially identical.

Although "arising out of" is not defined in the policy, nor have we defined the statutory phrase, we have construed this phrase in a homeowners policy exclusion. See Kalell v. Mutual Fire & Auto. Ins. Co., 471 N.W.2d 865, 867 (Iowa 1991). In Kalell we recognized that, in construing coverage clauses, the words "arising out of" are given a broad, general, and comprehensive meaning. Id. "[The words] are commonly understood to mean originating from, growing out of, or flowing from, and require only that there be some causal relationship between injury and risk for which coverage is provided." Id. A policy provision covering injury "arising out of the use of the vehicle" conveys a more liberal concept of causation than "proximate cause" in its...

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61 practice notes
  • State v. Shears, No. 16-1665
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 30, 2018
    ...the Restatement (Second) of Torts for determining whether an intervening force is a superseding cause. See Hollingsworth v. Schminkey , 553 N.W.2d 591, 597 (Iowa 1996) ; Iowa Elec. Light & Power Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co. , 352 N.W.2d 231, 235–36 (Iowa 1984). We explained that "[i]t is clear tha......
  • Union County v. Piper Jaffray & Co. Inc., No. 4:06–cv–374.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • September 29, 2010
    ...risk, [however,] will not supersede the defendant's responsibility.’ ” Hayward, 573 N.W.2d at 32 (quoting Hollingsworth v. Schminkey, 553 N.W.2d 591, 598 (Iowa 1996)). While the Court has serious doubts as to whether the County will ultimately be able to prove that any alleged action or omi......
  • GLJ, Inc. v. United States, No. 1:20-cv-00009-RGE-SBJ
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa
    • December 4, 2020
    ...quotation marks and citation omitted). The threshold question of duty is a question of law for the court. Hollingsworth v. Schminkey , 553 N.W.2d 591, 599 (Iowa 1996). Courts "look to legislative enactments, prior judicial decisions, and general legal principals as a source for the existenc......
  • Union Cnty. v. Piper Jaffray & Co., 4:06-cv-374
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • September 29, 2010
    ...risk, [however,] will not supersede the defendant's responsibility.' " Hayward, 573 N.W.2d at 32 (quoting Hollingsworth v. Schminkey, 553 N.W.2d 591, 598 (Iowa 1996)). While the Court has serious doubts as to whether the County will ultimately be able to prove that any alleged action or omi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
59 cases
  • State v. Shears, No. 16-1665
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 30, 2018
    ...the Restatement (Second) of Torts for determining whether an intervening force is a superseding cause. See Hollingsworth v. Schminkey , 553 N.W.2d 591, 597 (Iowa 1996) ; Iowa Elec. Light & Power Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co. , 352 N.W.2d 231, 235–36 (Iowa 1984). We explained that "[i]t is clear tha......
  • Union County v. Piper Jaffray & Co. Inc., No. 4:06–cv–374.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • September 29, 2010
    ...risk, [however,] will not supersede the defendant's responsibility.’ ” Hayward, 573 N.W.2d at 32 (quoting Hollingsworth v. Schminkey, 553 N.W.2d 591, 598 (Iowa 1996)). While the Court has serious doubts as to whether the County will ultimately be able to prove that any alleged action or omi......
  • GLJ, Inc. v. United States, No. 1:20-cv-00009-RGE-SBJ
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa
    • December 4, 2020
    ...quotation marks and citation omitted). The threshold question of duty is a question of law for the court. Hollingsworth v. Schminkey , 553 N.W.2d 591, 599 (Iowa 1996). Courts "look to legislative enactments, prior judicial decisions, and general legal principals as a source for the existenc......
  • Union Cnty. v. Piper Jaffray & Co., 4:06-cv-374
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • September 29, 2010
    ...risk, [however,] will not supersede the defendant's responsibility.' " Hayward, 573 N.W.2d at 32 (quoting Hollingsworth v. Schminkey, 553 N.W.2d 591, 598 (Iowa 1996)). While the Court has serious doubts as to whether the County will ultimately be able to prove that any alleged action or omi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 firm's commentaries
  • The Rescue Doctrine
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • November 19, 2021
    ...defendant, reasonable attempts will be undertaken to alleviate and nullify the consequences of such peril."); Hollingsworth v. Schminkey, 553 N.W.2d 591, 597-98 (Iowa 1996) (concerning a vehicle fire that occurred when a motorist drove the vehicle despite knowing that a malfunctioning exhau......
  • The Rescue Doctrine
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • November 19, 2021
    ...defendant, reasonable attempts will be undertaken to alleviate and nullify the consequences of such peril."); Hollingsworth v. Schminkey, 553 N.W.2d 591, 597-98 (Iowa 1996) (concerning a vehicle fire that occurred when a motorist drove the vehicle despite knowing that a malfunctioning exhau......

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