Submitted: May 19, 2016
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - Minneapolis
RILEY, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
Walker, a senior planning analyst for Hennepin County,
Minnesota, was insured under a group long-term disability
policy the county obtained from Hartford Life and Accident
Insurance Company (Hartford). In April 2009, Walker filed a
claim for disability benefits based on her Type I diabetes.
Hartford denied the claim. In May 2014, Walker, a Minnesota
citizen, sued Hartford, a Connecticut citizen, in Minnesota
state court, alleging breach of contract. Hartford timely
removed the case to federal court based on diversity
jurisdiction and moved for summary judgment. See 28
U.S.C. §§ 1332(a)(1), 1441(a), 1446. Walker moved
for partial summary judgment. The district
court granted Hartford summary judgment,
concluding Walker's suit was untimely under the policy.
The district court denied Walker's cross-motion as moot.
Walker appeals. We affirm.
years, the county permitted Walker to work from home
full-time. In 2008, Walker's new supervisor advised
Walker she would have to work at a county office two days a
week. Walker, for the first time in January 2008, informed
the county she had diabetes and asked that she be allowed to
work from home so she could test her blood and take insulin
as needed. Walker complained the county office lacked
sufficient privacy and a safe, sanitary, and effective place
to take insulin.
the county refused to accommodate Walker and let her work
full-time from home, as her doctor recommended, Walker ended
her employment. Although she worked part-time through
December 2008, Walker's last full day of work was June
17, 2008. On April 8, 2009, Walker filed a claim for
disability benefits under the Hartford policy. Hartford
denied the claim initially and on appeal, concluding Walker
failed to show she could not perform her essential job
2014, Walker sued Hartford for breach of contract in
Minnesota state court. Hartford removed the case to federal
court and later moved for summary judgment, arguing
Walker's suit (1) was untimely under the policy's
limitation period, and (2) even if timely, failed on the
merits. Walker cross-moved for partial summary judgment on
several grounds. The district court referred the case to a
magistrate judge for disposition.
conducting a hearing, the magistrate judge recommended the
district court grant summary judgment to Hartford because
Walker's suit was untimely under the policy. The
magistrate judge also recommended denying Walker's
cross-motion as moot. In a summary order, the district court
denied Walker's objections and adopted the report and
recommendation in full. Walker appeals, challenging the
district court's interpretation of Minnesota law which
governs the policy.
Choice of Law and Standards of Review
parties agree Minnesota substantive law applies to this
diversity case. See Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304
U.S. 64, 78 (1938). The Supreme Court of Minnesota has not
addressed the issues raised in this appeal, so "[w]e
must predict how [it] would rule, and we follow decisions of
the intermediate state court when they are the best evidence
of Minnesota law." Friedberg v. Chubb & Son,
Inc., 691 F.3d 948, 951 (8th Cir. 2012). We review de
novo the district court's interpretation of Minnesota law
and its summary judgment rulings. See Bannister v. Bemis
Co., 556 F.3d 882, 884 (8th Cir. 2009). We also review
de novo Walker's constitutional claims. See United
States v. Meirick, 674 F.3d 802, 804 (8th Cir. 2012).
Summary judgment is required "if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
group policy required Walker to initiate any legal action
against Hartford within "three years after the time
written Proof of Loss is required to be furnished according
to the terms of the Policy." The policy required Walker
to send proof of loss "within 90 days after the start of
the period for which [Hartford] owe[d] payment." Based
on the policy terms and the undisputed facts in the record,
the district court correctly determined Walker "could
not take legal action against Hartford after December 15,
2011." Because Walker did not file suit until May 2014,
the district court concluded Walker's suit was
does not dispute the district court's calculations under
the policy or argue that her suit was timely under the
policy's limitation period. Rather, Walker argues the
policy's limitation period does not apply at all.
According to Walker, "[t]he District Court should be
reversed because Chapter 62A, when read in its entirety, is
intended to provide the protections of Minn. Stat.
§62A.04 to insureds under group policies" like hers
and Hartford's proof-of-loss language does not comply.
arguments turn on issues of statutory interpretation. Under
Minnesota law, "[t]he object of all interpretation and
construction of laws is to ascertain and effectuate the
intention of the legislature." Minn. Stat. §
645.16. "We interpret a statute 'as a whole so as to
harmonize and give effect to all its parts, and where
possible, no word, phrase, or sentence will be held
superfluous, void, or insignificant.'" 328 Barry
Ave., LLC v. Nolan Props. Grp., LLC, 871 N.W.2d 745, 749
(Minn. 2015) (quoting Jackson v. Mortg. Elec.
Registration Sys., Inc., 770 N.W.2d 487, 496 (Minn.
2009)). "'When the language of a statute is plain
and unambiguous, it is assumed to manifest legislative intent
and must be given effect.'" Allan v. R.D. Offutt
Co., 869 N.W.2d 31, 33 (Minn. 2015) (quoting
Burkstrand v. Burkstrand, 632 N.W.2d 206, 210 (Minn.