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Miklas v. Parrott

June 24, 2003

PATRICIA E. MIKLAS, AS TRUSTEE FOR THE NEXT-OF-KIN OF KATHLEEN ROSE FIELDS AND DANIEL JOSEPH FIELDS, DECEASED, RESPONDENT,
v.
STEPHEN TRAVIS PARROTT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS, ILLINOIS FARMERS INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLANT.



Hennepin County District Court File No. WD0119592

Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Minge, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. A person who has not been appointed as trustee for the next-of-kin of a decedent under Minn. Stat. § 573.02, subd. 3 (2002) has no authority to enter into a settlement on behalf of decedent's next-of-kin. The fact that a person who purports to have been so appointed was not so appointed is material to a settlement of the claims asserted by the purported trustee for wrongful death and uninsured-motorist benefits, sufficient to justify vacation of court approval of the settlement under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02.

2. The district court lacks jurisdiction to appoint a trustee for the next-of-kin of a deceased under Minn. Stat. § 573.02, subd. 3, after the three-year statute of limitations for a wrongful-death action has expired.

3. An uninsured-motorist-coverage carrier has no liability for uninsured-motorist benefits for the death of an insured when expiration of the statute of limitations for a wrongful-death action extinguishes the liability of the uninsured driver who was responsible for the death.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stoneburner, Judge

Affirmed in part and reversed in part

Concurring in part, dissenting in part, Minge, Judge

OPINION

Appellant Illinois Farmers Insurance Company challenges the district court's denial of its motion to vacate an order appointing respondent Patricia E. Miklas trustee of the next-of-kin of Kathleen Rose Fields and Daniel Josephs Fields and approving settlement of a lawsuit brought by Miklas as trustee of the next-of-kin of Kathleen Rose Fields, a minor.

During settlement negotiations and in her complaint against the uninsured driver, the vehicle's owner, and Illinois Farmers, Miklas represented herself as the trustee for the next-of-kin to Kathleen Fields and Daniel Fields. But Miklas was not appointed as trustee until the day of the settlement-approval hearing, which occurred more than three years after the deaths of Kathleen and Daniel Fields. Because the district court abused its discretion by denying Illinois Farmers' motion to vacate appointment and approval of the settlement, we reverse that portion of the judgment. Because Illinois Farmers is no longer liable for uninsured-motorist benefits claimed as a result of the accident that killed Kathleen and Daniel Fields, we affirm the district court's dismissal of Miklas's claims arising out of the death of Daniel Joseph Fields.

FACTS

Kathleen Rose Fields and her brother, Daniel Joseph Fields, were killed in a one-car accident on May 29, 1997. The Fields siblings were passengers. Neither the driver nor the owner of the involved automobile was insured. But the decedents, and their mother, respondent Patricia E. Miklas, were insured as members of the household of Miklas's surviving son, under a policy issued to him by appellant Illinois Farmers Insurance Company.

In January 1999, Miklas brought a wrongful-death action against the driver and the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident. In the same action, Miklas sued Illinois Farmers for uninsured-motorist benefits. Miklas brought the lawsuit as trustee for the next-of-kin of both Kathleen and Daniel Fields. Miklas asserted in the complaint that the ...


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