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Ronning v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 7, 2016

Michael Ronning, Appellant,
v.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Respondent.

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-15-15807

         Affirmed

          Sam Hanson, Robert J. King, Jr., Benjamin E. Gurstelle, Briggs and Morgan, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          David J. Hoekstra, David M. Werwie & Associates, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Kirk, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Bjorkman, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         When an insured cannot recover from an underinsured motorist tortfeasor because the insured failed to sue the tortfeasor within the applicable limitations period, the insured may not bring a claim for underinsured motorist benefits because the claim has not ripened.

          OPINION

          SCHELLHAS, Judge

         Appellant challenges the district court's rule 12.02(e) dismissal of his claim for underinsured motorist benefits based on his failure to first recover from the underinsured tortfeasor through adjudication or settlement. We affirm.

         FACTS [1]

         In April 2012, appellant Michael Ronning suffered permanent injuries in Iowa after a pickup truck in which he was a passenger collided with a vehicle driven by Lawrence Kruger. Respondent State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company insured the truck under a policy that included $1 million in underinsured motorist coverage. Ronning retained an attorney to sue Kruger. Kruger's only liability insurance was a bodily-injury policy issued by Farm Bureau Property & Casualty Insurance Company with a coverage limit of $100, 000. In August 2015, after Ronning's attorney failed to sue Kruger within Iowa's two-year statute-of-limitations period for personal injury claims, Ronning sued State Farm for underinsured motorist benefits.[2] State Farm moved the district court to dismiss Ronning's claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         Meanwhile, Ronning also commenced a malpractice lawsuit against his former attorney for failing to timely sue Kruger. Ronning and his former attorney agreed to settle the malpractice claim, and Ronning sent State Farm a purported Schmidt-Clothier notice, informing it of the tentative settlement. State Farm did not substitute a payment to Ronning in the amount of the settlement. Instead, State Farm responded by amending its motion to dismiss and asking the district court to declare the Schmidt-Clothier notice invalid, or, in the alternative, to stay the 30-day notice period until the court determined whether Ronning had pleaded a legally viable underinsured motorist claim.

         The district court granted State Farm's motion to dismiss, concluding that because Ronning admittedly could not resolve his time-barred tort claim against Kruger through adjudication or settlement, he could not satisfy the condition ...


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