Tillery v. League General Ins. Co., C3-98-724

Citation584 N.W.2d 780
Decision Date13 October 1998
Docket NumberNo. C3-98-724,C3-98-724
PartiesJohnnie TILLERY, Appellant, v. LEAGUE GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent.
CourtMinnesota Court of Appeals

Syllabus by the Court

Medical and disability expenses incurred by a transplant donor for the benefit of a motor vehicle accident victim are not recoverable under the donor's no-fault insurance policy.

Gary T. LaFleur, Steven J. Lodge, Babcock, Locher, Neilson & Mannella, Anoka,for appellant.

Karen Melling Van Vliet, Johnson & Van Vliet, L.L.P., St. Paul, for respondents.

Considered and decided by LANSING, P.J., and HARTEN and THOREEN, JJ. *

OPINION

LANSING, Judge.

In this declaratory judgment action, an insured seeks to determine whether his no-fault policy covers transplant-related expenses incurred in donating part of an intestine to his son, who was injured in a motor vehicle accident. Although the son's injuries arose from the maintenance and use of a motor vehicle, the father's transplant-related expenses represent a separate injury that does not trigger the father's no-fault coverage. We affirm.

FACTS

For purposes of the summary judgment motion, the facts have been stipulated. Johnnie Tillery and his son, David, were involved in a motor vehicle accident causing severe injuries to David that required an intestinal transplant. Tillery donated a portion of his intestine to David and incurred medical and hospital expenses in the amount of $26,217.20 and disability and wage loss expenses in the amount of $6,872.80. Tillery's no-fault insurer, respondent League General Insurance Company (League General), paid David's medical expenses up to the $20,000 per-person limits of Tillery's no-fault policy, but denied Tillery's independent claim for no-fault benefits.

Tillery brought this declaratory judgment action, and both parties moved for summary judgment. The district court granted League General's motion, concluding that Tillery was not entitled to a separate per-person recovery under his no-fault policy. Tillery appeals.

ISSUE

Did the district court err by concluding that Tillery's transplant-related expenses are not recoverable, independent of David's claim for no-fault benefits?

ANALYSIS

Minnesota's No-fault Act provides for the payment of basic economic loss benefits to reimburse all injuries "arising out of" the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle. Minn.Stat. § 65B.44, subd. 1 (1996). Basic economic loss benefits provide a maximum of $40,000 for loss arising out of the injury to any one person, consisting of $20,000 for medical expense loss arising out of injury to any one person and $20,000 for income, funeral, and services losses arising out of the injury to any one person. Id.

Tillery claims that his medical expenses and wage losses arose out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle. When the facts are not disputed, the determination of whether injuries arose out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle is a legal conclusion, which we review de novo. Continental W. Ins. Co. v. Klug, 415 N.W.2d 876, 877 (Minn.1987); Medicine Lake Bus Co. v. Smith, 554 N.W.2d 623, 624 (Minn.App.1996).

To "arise out of" the use of a motor vehicle, an injury must meet three requirements. See generally Klug, 415 N.W.2d at 878. We address these requirements in the context of Tillery's individual claim for no-fault benefits that is separate from David's claim for no-fault coverage.

The first Klug requirement is that a motor vehicle be an "active accessory" in causing the injury. Id. This causation standard has been defined as

something less than proximate cause in the tort sense and something more than the vehicle being the mere situs of the injury. It is enough if "the injury is a natural and reasonable incident or consequence of the use of the vehicle."

Tlougan v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 310 N.W.2d 116, 117 (Minn.1981) (quoting Haagenson v. National Farmers Union Property

& Cas. Co., 277 N.W.2d 648, 652 (Minn.1979)).

Tillery relies on Benike v. Dairyland Ins. Co., 520 N.W.2d 465 (Minn.App.1994), review granted (Minn. Oct. 14, 1994), appeal dismissed (Minn. Apr. 5, 1995). In Benike, an insured driver came upon a motor vehicle accident, got out of his own vehicle, and followed the accident victim towards the victim's vehicle, where he came into contact with live power lines. Id. at 466. The Benike court concluded that the injuries arose out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle because the accident victim's conduct was a substantial factor in causing the insured's injuries. Id. at 467.

Tillery argues that we should view his injuries in the same manner as the court viewed the insured's injuries in Benike because Tillery incurred his injuries while assisting a victim of a motor vehicle accident. But unlike the insured's injuries in Benike, Tillery did not incur his injuries during the course of assisting an injured motorist; his injuries were incurred at a later date, in the hospital, as a result of an intentional decision to undergo surgery. The motor vehicle that injured David was not an active accessory in causing Tillery's injuries because Tillery's claim for no-fault benefits was independent of David's claim for benefits and arose out of Tillery's own decision to undergo surgery.

The second Klug requirement is that there be no "act of independent significance * * *, breaking the causal link between 'use' of the vehicle and the injuries inflicted." Klug, 415 N.W.2d at 878. For example, an insured's act of leaving a motor vehicle and inflicting an intentional battery will...

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