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Swenson v. Waseca Mutual Insurance Co.

December 10, 2002

WAYNE R. SWENSON, ET AL., APPELLANTS,
v.
WASECA MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, RESPONDENT.



Hennepin County District Court File No. CT018031

Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

By application of Minnesota's Good Samaritan law, Minn. Stat. § 604A.01, subd. 2 (2002), a motorist providing roadside assistance to the victim of a snowmobile accident by attempting to drive the accident victim to the hospital is immune from liability for damages resulting from the motorist's subsequent negligent driving.

A lay person providing transportation for an injured person to a health care facility, where that transportation utilizes an indirect route to the facility or a brief stop on the way to the facility, is acting at the scene of an emergency and meets the requirements for protection from liability as provided by Minnesota's Good Samaritan law, Minn. Stat. § 604A.01 subd. 2.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. Barry Anderson, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

Kelly Swenson, 13 years old, suffered an apparent dislocated knee when her snowmobile went into a ditch. A passing motorist, Lillian Tiegs, stopped and, after first unsuccessfully attempting to summon help by way of a cell phone, offered to give Swenson a ride to a nearby hospital in New Prague, Minnesota. Teigs agreed to make a brief stop at the Teigs' residence, less than a quarter-mile away, to allow Swenson's companions to park their snowmobiles there and accompany Swenson to the hospital. As Tiegs pulled into traffic, a speeding tractor-trailer struck her vehicle. Swenson died as a consequence of the traffic accident.

The respondent insurer, Waseca Mutual Insurance Company, was granted summary judgment by the district court, holding that Teigs's actions were protected by Minnesota's Good Samaritan law. The district court ruled Tiegs was providing assistance at the scene of an emergency and during transit to a hospital and was therefore immune from liability. Minn. Stat. § 604A.01, subd. 2 (2000). Appellant argues that the district court erred as a matter of law by holding (1) that the Good Samaritan law applies to negligent driving while transporting an injured person from an accident scene to a hospital and (2) that Tiegs was acting at the scene of an emergency. We affirm.

FACTS

On January 19, 1998, Kelly Swenson, 13 years old, injured her leg when the snowmobile she was driving struck a drainage culvert in the north ditch along Highway 19, west of New Prague. Swenson apparently dislocated her knee during the accident. With Swenson at the time of the accident were her sister and three friends.

Lillian Tiegs, a passing motorist, in response to waving from Swenson's companions, stopped her vehicle on the shoulder of Highway 19 and asked if any assistance was necessary. Tiegs first attempted to summon help by calling 911, but she was unable to raise a signal on her cell phone. Tiegs then agreed to drive Swenson to the hospital in New Prague. The rest of Swenson's group decided to drive their snowmobiles to the home of Tiegs, less than a quarter of a mile away from the scene of the accident. The plan was to leave the snowmobiles at the Tiegs residence and then ride in the Tiegs' van to the hospital.

After Swenson was placed in the van, Tiegs attempted to make a U-turn from the westbound side of the highway to the eastbound lane. Before Tiegs had completed the U-turn, a tractor-trailer exceeding the posted speed limit and traveling in the eastbound lane struck the passenger side of the Tiegs' van. Kelly Swenson died as a result of injuries she sustained in this accident.

The Swenson family brought a wrongful-death action against both the tractor-trailer driver and Tiegs. The Swensons settled with the driver of the tractor-trailer and then brought an under insured-motorist claim against Waseca Mutual, the insurer for Tiegs. Waseca Mutual moved for summary judgment, alleging that under Minnesota's Good Samaritan law, ยง 604A.01, subd 2, Tiegs was immune from liability. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment, concluding that Minnesota's Good Samaritan law does not require the person receiving assistance to be in ...


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