APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR
L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE WILSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Plaintiff, State Security Insurance Company, filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment against defendants, Kenneth Linton, d/b/a Linton Brothers, and John P. Regas, in which it sought a determination of its obligations under a liability insurance policy it wrote. Linton answered the complaint and filed a counterclaim and third-party complaint against plaintiff and Conklin-Crandall Company, Inc. In the bench trial which followed, the trial court, at the close of plaintiff's case, granted defendants' motion for a directed finding. This is an appeal from the order entered upon the finding. The only issue on appeal is whether the decision of the trial court is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. We reverse. The pertinent facts follow.
On August 13, 1973, Linton entered into an agreement with Regas to do certain work at a six-story building located at 305-315 West Grand Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. The relevant portions of that contract provided:
"Remove all old piping; old scrap; two boilers; concrete floor on fourth floor, and metal runners that hold up concrete; chimney stack approximately 200 feet high; two small brick walls in basement; oil tank in basement; three large tanks; two wooden water tanks on roof; cages and duct work mounted on side of building; and all other materials and debris located in the above building with the exception of the sprinkling system. We will undertake not only to remove, but also haul away and dispose of all of the aforementioned."
On that same day, August 13, 1973, Linton applied to an insurance agency, Conklin-Crandall Co., Inc., for a comprehensive general liability policy. The agency submitted an application to plaintiff and plaintiff issued a "binder" which provided coverage for a period from August 15, 1973, to August 15, 1974. After receiving two inspection reports from the Illinois Service Bureau concerning the type of work being done by Linton, a description of the property at 305-315 West Grand Avenue, information about Linton's payroll, and information about the type of equipment Linton used, plaintiff issued a general liability policy. The pertinent provisions of that policy stated:
Wrecking Building or structures not marine including salesmen or clerical at site of wrecking
It is a condition of this policy that the coverage afforded thereby shall apply only to the wrecking or demolition of structures not exceeding seventy (70) feet in height."
The terms "wrecking" and "demolition" were not defined in the policy.
On October 19, 1973, a fire occurred while Linton and his employees were working in the building. The fire gutted the interior of the building. Subsequently Regas sued Linton for damages alleging in part that Linton was careless and negligent in the use of acetylene torches on the job site while removing certain metal fixtures, other materials and debris from the building.
Upon receiving service of summons and complaint, Linton tendered the defense of this negligence case to plaintiff. In turn, plaintiff brought this suit for declaratory judgment claiming that there is no insurance coverage for the work done by Linton at the building because Linton was engaged in the "wrecking" or "demolition" of a building which was in excess of 70 feet in height and was violative of the terms and endorsement of the insurance policy.
At trial, plaintiff called Linton under section 60 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 60). In his testimony Linton admitted that he was engaged in the business of wrecking and rubbish removal, but he added that in September and October of 1973, he was doing "salvage" at the building. Plaintiff did ...