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Saint Paul partner Chris Goodman argued before the Minnesota Supreme Court on November 7, 2022, in a first-party insurance case that will determine what a party must file to avoid the automatic and mandatory dismissal of a civil action under Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 5.04(a).  See Glen Edin of Edinburgh Assoc. v. Hiscox Insurance Company, Inc., Case No. A21-0761 (Minn. 2022).

Unlike most states, the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure allow a plaintiff to commence a civil action simply by serving a summons and complaint.  The action need not be filed with the court before the pleadings are served in order to properly commence suit.  However, Minn. R. Civ. P. 5.04(a) requires the “action” be filed with the district court within one of year of commencement and the failure to timely file results in the mandatory dismissal of the action: “Any action that is not filed with the court within one year of commencement against any party is deemed dismissed unless the parties within that year sign a stipulation to extend the filing period.”  The Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision in Glen Edin will establish whether the “action” in Rule 5.04(a) means the complaint or encompasses other filings, such as a defendant’s answer.

Case Background

The Glen Edin of Edinburgh Association is a common-interest ownership community located in Minnesota.  In 2017, Glen Edin submitted a claim to Hiscox Insurance Company for property damage allegedly caused by hail during a June 2017 storm.  Between 2017 and 2019, the loss was adjusted and several payments were issued to repair the property.  In 2019 Glen Edin claimed, for the first time, that the roofs of the various townhomes sustained $3.6 million of damage from the same June 2017 storm, and demanded appraisal.  In June 2019, Glen Edin served a summons and complaint seeking indemnity from Hiscox Insurance Company for the roof damage.   In October 2019, Glen Edin filed a motion to have the district court appoint an umpire to preside over the appraisal.  In December 2019 the district court issued an order appointing an umpire and entered final judgment concluding the proceeding.  Hiscox Insurance Company then filed its answer January 2020.  For over a year there were no further proceedings before the district court.  Accordingly, Hiscox Insurance sent Glen Edin a letter in February 2021 indicating the action must be dismissed because the complaint was not filed within a year of Glen Edin commencing suit in June 2019.  The district court agreed, the case was dismissed in March 2020 pursuant Minn. R. Civ. P. 5.04(a), and the district court later denied Glen Edin’s motion to vacate the dismissal of the action.

Court of Appeals Judgment

Glen Edin appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding the filing of Hiscox Insurance Company’s answer in January 2020 satisfied the one-year filing deadline and avoided dismissal of Glen Edin’s claim.  The Court of Appeals determined the word  “action” in Rule 5.04(a) encompasses more than the complaint and includes any “judicial proceeding whose purpose is to obtain relief at the hands of the court.”  Further, the Court of Appeals determined that Hiscox Insurance Company’s answer was an “action” under Rule 5.04(a) because the answer included a boilerplate request for recovery of the attorney’s fees and costs Hiscox Insurance incurred defending the Glen Edin claim.

Review of appellate court decisions by the Minnesota Supreme Court is discretionary and while the Court reviews approximately 700 petitions a year, review is typically granted in only 10-12 percent of cases.  Chris filed a petition for review and the Minnesota Supreme Court granted it, and the case was argued on November 7, 2022.

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Christopher L. Goodman

Christopher L. Goodman


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