Tlougan v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 51348.

Decision Date08 December 1981
Docket NumberNo. 51348.,51348.
Citation310 NW 2d 116
PartiesCarrie L. TLOUGAN, an infant, by Michael D. Klampe, her guardian ad litem, Respondent, v. AUTO-OWNERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

James A. Reding, St. Paul, for appellant.

Steward, Perry & Mahler and M. John Steward, Rochester, Eric J. Magnuson, Minneapolis, for respondent.

Considered and decided by the court en banc without oral argument.

SIMONETT, Justice.

Respondent Carrie L. Tlougan, a 5-year-old child who sustained burn injuries while playing with matches in a truck, brought suit for her injuries against her parents' automobile insurer, Auto-Owners Insurance Company, and homeowners' insurer, Great Central Insurance Company. The trial court found that Carrie Tlougan's injuries were covered by the no-fault insurance policy and not by the homeowners' policy. Auto-Owners appeals from the judgment. Since we find the injuries did not arise out of the use or maintenance of a motor vehicle, we reverse.

Betty Tlougan, Carrie's mother, was planning to take her children to downtown Plainview on the morning of July 10, 1978, to participate in a "Crazy Days" celebration. Carrie was dressed in an Indian costume made from a gunny sack. The father had left a book of matches on the dashboard of the family pickup truck the previous day. The matches had been given to him by his wife because the truck's cigarette lighter was not in working order.

Mrs. Tlougan told her two children to sit in the truck and wait for her while she cleared dishes from the breakfast table. Carrie found the matches while sitting in the cab of the truck. She lit one of them and it ignited her costume. The truck's motor was not running and Mrs. Tlougan was still inside the house at the time of the accident.

As a result of the accident, Carrie Tlougan suffered third-degree burns on 40% of her body. Her medical expenses to time of trial were $20,714, and her doctor testified additional surgery would be required in the future.

Minnesota's no-fault statute states that basic economic loss benefits "shall provide reimbursement for all loss suffered through injury arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle." Minn.Stat. § 65B.44, subd. 1 (1980). The issue here is whether Carrie's injuries arose "out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle." This phrase is further defined by the statute as "maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a vehicle, including, incident to its maintenance or use as a vehicle, occupying, entering into, and alighting from it." Minn.Stat. § 65B.43, subd. 3 (1980) (emphasis added).

This court has long recognized there must be some connection between the injury and the use of the vehicle for transportation purposes. See, e. g., Holm v. Mutual Service Casualty Ins. Co., 261 N.W.2d 598, 603 (Minn.1977); Engeldinger v. State Automobile & Casualty Underwriters, 306 Minn. 202, 208, 236 N.W.2d 596, 600 (1975); Associated Independent Dealers, Inc. v. Mutual Service Ins. Cos., 304 Minn. 179, 182, 229 N.W.2d 516, 518 (1975). In these three cases we denied auto insurance coverage since the injuries did not relate to use of the vehicle for transportation purposes. In Haagenson v. National Farmers Union Property & Casualty Co., 277 N.W.2d 648 (Minn.1979), however, we found the connection sufficient to afford coverage.

In this case, the plaintiff was using the pickup truck for transportation purposes at the time of the accident. She was occupying the pickup, as a passenger, preparatory to a trip into town. We conclude, however, that coverage is not established since there is an insufficient causal connection between use of the vehicle for transportation purposes and the injury.

This "connection" between use and injury is 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." Haagenson, 277 N.W.2d at 652; National Family Ins. Co. v. Boyer, 269 N.W.2d 10, 15 (Minn.1978). In Holm, 261 N.W.2d at 603, we quoted with...

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