Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment in Insurance Coverage Disputes

Issue: Under Minnesota law, what is the standard for summary judgment in insurance coverage disputes involving the applicability of an intentional act exclusion?

Area of Law: Insurance Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment; Insurance coverage disputes; Intentional act exclusion
Jurisdiction: Federal, Minnesota
Cited Cases: 474 N.W.2d 324; 273 N.W.2d 630; 313 N.W.2d 202; 484 N.W.2d 52; 478 N.W.2d 531; 479 N.W.2d 87; 298 Minn. 93; 405 N.W.2d 418; 481 N.W.2d 62; 536 N.W.2d 305; 526 N.W.2d 378; 255 N.W.2d 373
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2001

          Minnesota law is well settled that the trial court may grant a motion for summary judgment only if, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, the movant has shown that there remains no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  Illinois Farmers Ins. Co. v. Tapemark Co., 273 N.W.2d 630, 633 (Minn. 1978).  The court is to decide only whether a genuine issue of fact remains; it may not resolve factual issues.  Id. at 633.  Even if the facts are undisputed, summary judgment is appropriate only if the movant has also shown entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.  Id. at 634.

As a general matter, when the facts are not disputed, insurance coverage questions are questions of law for the court.  Nygaard v. State Farm Ins. Co., 591 N.W.2d 738, 740 (Minn. Ct. App.), review denied (Minn. 1999); State Farm Ins. Cos. v. Seefeld, 481 N.W.2d 62, 64 (Minn. 1992); American Nat’l Fire Ins. Co. v. Cordie, 478 N.W.2d 531, 533 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).  However, “[w]hen fact questions exist regarding the interpretation and the construction of an insurance policy, it is the trial court’s function to instruct the jury as to the meaning of the policy terms.”  SCSC Corp. v. Allied Mut. Ins. Co., 536 N.W.2d 305, 313 (Minn. 1995).  Thus, negligence issues are generally precluded from resolution by summary […]

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