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Amica Mutual Insurance Co. v. Wartman

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

January 6, 2014

Amica Mutual Insurance Company, Appellant,
v.
Thomas B. Wartman, individually and as shareholder/owner of Landform, Inc., Respondent.

Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-12-12166

Michael W. Lowden, Shari L. Lowden, The Lowden Law Firm, LLC, (for appellant)

Gregory J. Collins, Mulligan & Bjornnes, PLLP, (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Johnson, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Chutich, Judge.

SYLLABUS

Minnesota law requires that an action upon a judgment be commenced "within ten years after the entry of such judgment." Minn. Stat. § 541.04 (2012). To extend a judgment beyond the ten-year period of limitations, the judgment creditor must bring suit against the original judgment debtor within the ten-year period. An action against a corporate judgment debtor's sole shareholder seeking to impose personal liability on the shareholder for a judgment against the corporation is not an action upon a judgment within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 541.04.

OPINION

RODENBERG, Judge

Appellant Amica Mutual Insurance Company appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondent Thomas B. Wartman dismissing appellant's suit claiming entitlement to "piercing of the corporate veil" because the underlying judgment against the corporate entity had expired under Minn. Stat. § 541.04. We affirm.

FACTS

Respondent was the owner and sole shareholder of Landform, Inc., which built a home in Shorewood. Appellant insured the home under a homeowner's policy. In 2001, appellant paid a claim for water damage at the Shorewood home. Appellant then sued Landform, alleging that the water damage was caused by negligent construction. On October 14, 2002, a default judgment was entered against Landform and in favor of appellant for $126, 014.99. Landform ceased doing business in 2002 and the judgment was never paid.

On April 7, 2007, appellant served respondent with a summons and complaint, alleging that respondent dissolved Landform "in an attempt to hinder, delay and discard its obligation" under the 2002 judgment. Appellant sought to pierce the corporate veil of Landform to hold respondent personally liable for the 2002 judgment against the corporation. Respondent timely answered appellant's complaint.

Although the complaint was served in 2007, appellant did not file its complaint with the district court until 2012. Respondent acknowledges having instructed his attorney not to respond to or participate in the litigation beyond interposing the answer until after the 2002 judgment against Landform expired on October 14, 2012 by operation of the ten-year limitation in Minn. Stat. § 541.04. On January 23, 2013, respondent served and filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the district court could not find him "personally liable for a judgment that no longer exists."

On April 13, 2013, the district court granted respondent's motion for summary judgment, stating:

[Appellant] did not seek to renew or extend the judgment against Landform in its Complaint. [Appellant] only sought to pierce the corporate veil, an action akin to a creditor's bill. The Minnesota Supreme Court has specifically held that these types of actions do not ...

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