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Stand Up Multipositional Advantage MRI, P.A. v. American Family Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Minnesota

January 11, 2017

Stand Up Multipositional Advantage MRI, P.A., Appellant,
v.
American Family Insurance Company, a Wisconsin corporation, Respondent, Michael Schultz, et al., Respondents, Ilya Knyazev, et al., Respondents, Thomas Bennerotte, et al., Respondents, Jed Benjamin Iverson, Respondent, Gabriel Johnson, Respondent, Michael Fay, et al., Respondents, Brad Ratgen, et al., Respondents, Landon Barakow, Respondent, Lebertha Porter, Respondent.

         Office of Appellate Courts

          Randall D. B. Tigue, Randall Tigue Law Office, P.A., Fridley, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Matthew D. Lutz, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, for respondent American Family Insurance Company.

          Michael J. Weber, Weber & Nelson Law Office, PLLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amici curiae Center for Diagnostic Imaging, Minnesota Chiropractic Association, American Chiropractic Association, Minnesota Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, Twin Cities Orthopedics, and Minnesota Medical Group Management Association.

          Dale O. Thornsjo, Lance D. Meyer, O'Meara, Leer, Wagner & Kohl, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amici curiae The Insurance Federation of Minnesota and The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

          Jennifer E. Olson, TSR Injury Law, Bloomington, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Association for Justice.

          Charles J. Lloyd, Livgard & Lloyd PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Glass Association.

         SYLLABUS

         1. The district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the case because the issue presented was a question of law.

         2. The anti-assignment clause in an automobile insurance policy prohibits the assignments the policyholders made to their medical provider.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          GILDEA, Chief Justice.

         At issue in this case is the enforceability of an anti-assignment clause in an automobile insurance policy. Respondent American Family Insurance Company (American Family) issued automobile insurance policies to respondent-policyholders, who were later injured in automobile accidents. American Family's policy contained an anti-assignment clause, which became relevant when the policyholders assigned their interests in basic economic loss benefits to their medical provider, appellant Stand Up Multipositional Advantage MRI, P.A. (Stand Up), in order to obtain medical treatment. Stand Up sued American Family, the policyholders, and the policyholders' attorneys for failing to pay Stand Up directly in accordance with the assignments. The district court, on cross-motions for summary judgment, concluded that American Family's anti-assignment clause was unenforceable and the assignments to Stand Up were valid. The court of appeals reversed, determining that American Family's anti-assignment clause was valid and that it prohibited the assignments to Stand Up. Because we conclude that the anti-assignment clause precludes the assignments, we affirm.

          This action began after respondents Tiffani Mazzie, Prisly Arredondo Cerna, and Teri Baker (collectively, "policyholders") were injured in separate car accidents.[1] The policyholders had insurance through American Family and the policies contained an anti-assignment clause, which stated that "[i]nterest in this policy may be assigned only with [American Family's] written consent." The parties agree that American Family did not consent to the assignments at issue.

         In order to obtain medical treatment, the policyholders assigned their rights and benefits under their policies to Stand Up. Stand Up provides magnetic resonance imaging scans at a clinic in Golden Valley. Before providing imaging services, Stand Up required each policyholder to execute a form entitled, "Authorization and Irrevocable Assignment of Insurance Benefits for Direct Payments by My Payers to Stand Up, PA." The third paragraph of the assignment began:

I hereby assign to [Stand Up] to the extent permitted by law, but only to the extent of my Charges, all of my rights, remedies, and benefits related to any Payer, including without limit a primary, non-contingent right to receive Proceeds from any Payer, now or in the future, and any and all causes of action that I might have against any Payer now or in the future, the right to prosecute such causes of action either in my name or in [Stand ...

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