Kalell v. Mutual Fire and Auto. Ins. Co., No. 89-1900

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtConsidered by McGIVERIN; LARSON
Citation471 N.W.2d 865
PartiesHosien KALELL, Appellee, v. MUTUAL FIRE AND AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee, and Rodney R. Petersen and Betty J. Petersen, Defendants, Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, Appellant.
Decision Date19 June 1991
Docket NumberNo. 89-1900

Page 865

471 N.W.2d 865
Hosien KALELL, Appellee,
v.
MUTUAL FIRE AND AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee,
and
Rodney R. Petersen and Betty J. Petersen, Defendants,
Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, Appellant.
No. 89-1900.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
June 19, 1991.

Page 866

Gale E. Juhl of Juhl Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

Robert Houghton and Douglas R. Oelschlaeger of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee Hosien Kalell.

Jack W. Rogers, West Des Moines, for appellee Mutual Fire & Auto. Ins. Co.

Considered by McGIVERIN, C.J., and LARSON, SCHULTZ, NEUMAN, and SNELL, JJ.

LARSON, Justice.

When defendant Rodney Petersen removed a dead limb from a tree by attaching a rope and pulling it with his pickup, a piece of the limb struck the plaintiff, Hosien Kalell. Kalell sued Petersen and his wife Betty, as well as Kalell's own underinsured motorist carrier, Mutual Fire and Automobile Insurance Company. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, which was the carrier for Petersen's homeowners insurance, intervened and requested a ruling that its homeowners policy did not provide coverage. The district court, in the first stage of its bifurcated proceeding, held that Farm Bureau's homeowners policy exclusion for occurrences "arising out of the use" of a motor vehicle did not relieve it from potential liability. Farm Bureau was granted leave to appeal, and we now affirm.

The district court resolved this legal issue on the basis of the parties' stipulation of facts, Farm Bureau's homeowners insurance policy, Mutual Fire's automobile policy, and depositions. The material facts are not disputed. Petersen cut approximately two-thirds of the way through the limb with a saw, attached a rope, and pulled it with his pickup. The limb broke, and a portion of it struck Kalell on the head, causing serious injuries.

Farm Bureau's exclusion clause provides:

Coverage E--Personal Liability and Coverage F--Medical Payments to Others do not apply to bodily injury or property damage:

....

e. arising out of the ownership, maintenance, use, loading or unloading of:

....

(2) a motor vehicle owned or operated by, or rented or loaned to any insured....

The district court found that the "arising out of" language in the exclusion clause was ambiguous and resolved the issue against Farm Bureau.

Construction of an insurance policy, i.e., the process of determining its legal effect, is always a matter of law for the court. The "interpretation" of language,

Page 867

i.e., the process of determining the meaning of the words used, is also a matter for the court to decide as a matter of law unless it depends on extrinsic evidence or a choice among reasonable inferences to be drawn from it. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sandbulte, 302 N.W.2d 104, 107-08 (Iowa 1981). We resolve the issue as a matter of law in this case because no extrinsic evidence was introduced on the meaning of the language.

If an insurance policy provision is ambiguous, we construe it in the light most favorable to the insured; insurance policies are adhesion contracts, and exclusions will be strictly construed against the insurer. IMT Ins. Co. v. Amundsen, 376 N.W.2d 105, 107 (Iowa 1985). An insurer must therefore define clearly and explicitly any limitations or exclusions to coverage. First Newton Nat'l Bank v. General Casualty Co., 426 N.W.2d 618, 628 (Iowa 1988). The insurer also has the duty to prove the applicability of the exclusion. Id.

The phrase "arising out of" was not defined in the homeowners policy. When words are not defined in the policy, we give them their ordinary meaning. North Star Mut. Ins. Co. v. Holty, 402 N.W.2d 452, 455 (Iowa 1987); Amundsen, 376 N.W.2d at 107. Farm Bureau cites Dairyland Insurance Co. v. Concrete Products Co., 203 N.W.2d 558, 561 (Iowa 1973), for the proposition that "arising out of" imparts a much more liberal concept of causation than "proximate cause" in the traditional legal sense. It should be noted, however, that in Dairyland we interpreted the words "arising out of" broadly to include coverage.

Courts construing coverage clauses give the words "arising out of" a broad, general, and comprehensive meaning. They 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. G. Couch, 12 Insurance § 45:56, at 286-89 (2d ed. 1981); 6B J. Appleman, Insurance Law and Practice § 4317, at 359-63 (R. Buckley ed. 1979). As to an exclusion clause, however, a narrow or restrictive construction is required. That is...

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44 practice notes
  • Grinnell Mut. Reinsurance Co. v. Center Mut. Ins. Co., No. 20020073.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • March 26, 2003
    ...not preclude coverage for the negligent planning and tying of the ropes. Id. at 1270. [¶ 26] In Kalell v. Mut. Fire and Auto. Ins. Co., 471 N.W.2d 865 (Iowa 1991), after cutting two-thirds through a tree limb with a saw, Peterson attached a rope from the limb to a pickup truck. When the tru......
  • Wolfe v. Ross, No. 1048 WDA 2012
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • May 7, 2015
    ...the policy[ ] and controls coverage”).6 At least one court has read Eichelberger as I do. See Kalell v. Mut. Fire & Auto. Ins. Co., 471 N.W.2d 865, 867–69 (Iowa 1991) (reviewing Eichelberger at length and finding that coverage would lie for damages arising from pulling a tree limb down ......
  • AY McDonald Industries v. INA, No. C88-1028.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 30, 1993
    ...the burden to prove the applicability of any exclusion which allegedly precludes coverage. Kalell v. Mutual Fire & Auto. Ins. Co., 471 N.W.2d 865, 867 (Iowa 1991). Likewise, the insurer bears the burden of proof regarding an exception to any exclusion. Brammer v. Allied Mutual Ins. Co.,......
  • Amish Connection, Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No. 13–0124.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 20, 2015
    ...district's negligent supervision of loading fell outside scope of motor vehicle exclusion); Kalell v. Mut. Fire & Auto. Ins. Co., 471 N.W.2d 865, 868 (Iowa 1991) (“We hold that, when two independent acts of negligence are alleged, one vehicle-related and one not vehicle-related, coverag......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
44 cases
  • Grinnell Mut. Reinsurance Co. v. Center Mut. Ins. Co., No. 20020073.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • March 26, 2003
    ...not preclude coverage for the negligent planning and tying of the ropes. Id. at 1270. [¶ 26] In Kalell v. Mut. Fire and Auto. Ins. Co., 471 N.W.2d 865 (Iowa 1991), after cutting two-thirds through a tree limb with a saw, Peterson attached a rope from the limb to a pickup truck. When the tru......
  • Wolfe v. Ross, No. 1048 WDA 2012
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • May 7, 2015
    ...the policy[ ] and controls coverage”).6 At least one court has read Eichelberger as I do. See Kalell v. Mut. Fire & Auto. Ins. Co., 471 N.W.2d 865, 867–69 (Iowa 1991) (reviewing Eichelberger at length and finding that coverage would lie for damages arising from pulling a tree limb down ......
  • AY McDonald Industries v. INA, No. C88-1028.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 30, 1993
    ...the burden to prove the applicability of any exclusion which allegedly precludes coverage. Kalell v. Mutual Fire & Auto. Ins. Co., 471 N.W.2d 865, 867 (Iowa 1991). Likewise, the insurer bears the burden of proof regarding an exception to any exclusion. Brammer v. Allied Mutual Ins. Co.,......
  • Amish Connection, Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No. 13–0124.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 20, 2015
    ...district's negligent supervision of loading fell outside scope of motor vehicle exclusion); Kalell v. Mut. Fire & Auto. Ins. Co., 471 N.W.2d 865, 868 (Iowa 1991) (“We hold that, when two independent acts of negligence are alleged, one vehicle-related and one not vehicle-related, coverag......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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