Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sauber v. Northland Insurance Co. case brief

Sauber v. Northland Insurance Co. case brief summary
87 N.W.2d 591 (1958)

Plaintiff appealed order for a new trial from the Ramsey County District Court (Minnesota), in an action for recovery of damage to an automobile allegedly covered by an insurance policy issued by defendant.

Owner sold his automobile to his brother-in-law, the plaintiff. Plaintiff contacted defendant insurer to inquire about an assignment of insurance coverage to plaintiff. Plaintiff assumed defendant had assigned the policy. Owner, who had reserved the right to use the vehicle, was involved in an automobile accident with the insured vehicle. Defendant insurer would not cover the damages. After a jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, the court granted defendant a new trial for errors of law. Reversing the grant of a new trial, the court held that defendant's agent had authority to act and make the assignment of the insurance policy. Plaintiff had called defendant to discuss the policy and spoke with person who answered regarding the policy.


  • The court held that where defendant invited the public to call its telephone number to transact business with it, and where defendant permitted an employee to answer the telephone, that such person was acting for defendant with authority. 
  • Defendant offered no proof to dispute that presumption. 
  • The court held that the lower court erred in not admitting the testimony regarding the phone call.

Court reversed order granting new trial based on errors of law and reinstated the jury verdict because plaintiff assumed the one who answered the telephone was an agent of defendant's and had apparent authority to bind defendant on the assignment of insurance.

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