Finn v. Dakota Fire Insurance Co.

Finn v. Dakota Fire Insurance Co., 2015 MT 253 (Aug. 26, 2015) (Rice, J.) (6-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Dakota Fire on the grounds that it had properly cancelled an insurance policy for nonpayment of a renewal premium.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Dakota Fire Insurance Co. issued an insurance policy to David Finn for his 2007 Silverado pickup truck, effective May 1, 2011-May 1, 2012. On March 16, 2012, Finn received letter from EMC Insurance (Dakota Fire’s parent company) advising him he would be receiving a renewal invoice soon, and that failure to pay the premium would result in cancellation. On March 28, 2012, Finn requested that his new GMC Sierra be substituted on the policy, and EMC made the change.

EMC sent a renewal premium notice on April 11, 2012, instructing him to pay the minimum of $131.65 by May 1, 2012, to renew. Finn did not pay. EMC sent a notice of expiration and cancellation to Finn, offering to reinstate without interruption if he paid by May 18 and explaining that failure to pay would mean the policy would “remain expired.” Finn wrote a check May 8 but it was not received by the company until May 24. Finn says he mailed it without a stamp, and he had to resend it.

Finn was involved in an accident on May 14, and reported the loss to EMC on May 16. On May 24, EMC sent a letter denying coverage for failure to pay the renewal premium. Finn filed a complaint alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory relief. 

Procedural Posture & Holding: Following cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court entered judgment for Dakota Fire, holding there was no policy in effect at the time of Finn’s accident. Finn appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: Finn’s arguments are defeated by the plain language of the notice documents and the statute.