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Menke v. Country Mutual Insurance Co.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. STEPHEN M. KERNAN, Judge, presiding.


Mr. JUSTICE KUNCE delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant Country Mutual Insurance Company appeals from a judgment of the Circuit Court of St. Clair County granting plaintiff's motion for summary judgment allowing "stacking" of uninsured motorist insurance coverage.

The facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff's daughter was killed when an uninsured motor vehicle in which she rode as a passenger left the roadway and crashed. As a member of plaintiff's household, the decedent was covered by the uninsured motorist provisions of plaintiff's two automobile insurance policies issued by Country Mutual. The first policy covered two vehicles, and the second covered one vehicle. Because of statutory requirements of uninsured vehicle coverage for any insured vehicle registered in this State (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 73, par. 755a), plaintiff had three uninsured vehicle coverages in effect, each for $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident.

Plaintiff made a claim for payment for benefits under the uninsured motorist provisions of all three policies in the sum of $30,000. Defendant denied the claim on the basis of certain provisions in each policy. Each policy included the following provision in "Section II — PROTECTION AGAINST BODILY INJURY BY UNINSURED VEHICLES":


General Conditions 1 through 15 apply to Section II and under Section II."

Paragraph number 7 under "GENERAL CONDITIONS" in each policy states:

"7. OTHER AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE IN THE COMPANY With respect to any occurrence, accident, death or loss to which this and any other automobile insurance policy issued to the Named Insured by the Company also applies, the total limit of the Company's liability under all such policies shall not exceed the highest applicable limit of liability or benefit amount under any one such policy."

Plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory judgment requesting the court to declare that the uninsured motorist provisions of the three policies could be "stacked" to provide a total coverage of $30,000 for the wrongful death of plaintiff's decedent. Country Mutual by its answer denied that plaintiff should be permitted to "stack" the uninsured motorist provisions and asked the court to declare the total coverage provided per person to be $10,000.

The exhibits of record included statements of coverage and premiums and the insurance policy in issue. The statements show that for each vehicle covered there was uninsured vehicle coverage of $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident, the semiannual premiums for which were $1.60 for vehicle 1, $1.70 for vehicle 2, and $1.80 for vehicle 3. The record contains plaintiff's affidavit stating that when he purchased the insurance coverage on the second and third vehicles, he was not advised that he would not be receiving any additional uninsured motorist insurance coverage. Country Mutual filed an affidavit made by its senior claims attorney stating the method by which Country Mutual determines its premiums for uninsured motorist coverage.

Upon plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, the court held that the uninsured motorist coverage for the deceased was in the amount of $30,000. The issue is whether, as a matter of law, the insurance policy language excludes stacking of uninsured motorist provisions of the three Country Mutual policies.

• 1 We reverse the trial court and hold that plaintiff's recovery from Country Mutual is limited to $10,000 by reason of paragraph 7 of the General Conditions of each of the three policies. Paragraph 7 is clear and unambiguous, and therefore it must be taken in its plain, ordinary and popular sense. Tuthill v. State Farm Insurance Co. (1974), 19 Ill. App.3d 491, 311 N.E.2d 770.

Plaintiff relies on Glidden v. Farmers Automobile Insurance Association (1974), 57 Ill.2d 330, 312 N.E.2d 247, and Squire v. Economy Fire & Casualty Co. (1977), 69 Ill.2d 167, 370 N.E.2d 1044, in support of his position that the insurance policies may be stacked. These cases are distinguishable.

In Glidden the plaintiff's wife, while a pedestrian, was struck and killed by an uninsured motorist. Plaintiff owned three automobile policies issued by the defendant-insurer each containing uninsured motorist insurance coverage in the amount of $10,000 per person. ...

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