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Pinson v. Allstate Insurance Co.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.


Maxine W. Pinson, plaintiff, brought this action against defendant, Allstate Insurance Company, in the circuit court of Cook County to reinstate benefit payments and obtain treble damages under an extended personal injury protection insurance contract she entered into with defendant. At trial, defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint was granted and plaintiff appeals. We reverse and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

Plaintiff purchased automobile insurance from defendant in 1971. The policy issued by defendant consisted of the main policy and a subsequently issued rider. The policy provided "basic personal injury protection" (Coverage VA) and the rider added Coverage VB — excess personal injury protection. The rider was issued by defendant after the passage of article XXXV of the Insurance Code (hereinafter article 35) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 73, pars. 1065.150 through 1065.163), commonly known as the no-fault statute. The rider stated:

"[Defendant] agrees * * * to provide the following coverage, in accordance with Article XXXV of the Illinois Insurance Code, subject to all of the provisions of the policy except as modified herein; * * *."

The rider then specifically described the benefits provided by Coverage VB, followed by sections containing definitions, exclusions, limits of liability and conditions.

On February 12, 1972, while the insurance policy was in effect, plaintiff was severely injured in an automobile accident. She was immediately hospitalized and underwent surgery which required the removal of 1 inch of lateral interior margin of the right temporal lobe of her brain. She subsequently suffered post-traumatic epilepsy and left hemoporesis, or a slight paralysis, on one side of her body, further complicated by poor equilibrium and speech problems.

In a report to defendant, plaintiff's treating physician's prognosis was that she suffered from organic brain disease syndrome and would "probably never" be able to return to work. Her employer tested her ability to perform the job she held at the time of her accident and reported in a letter that she could not perform a simple assignment. As of the date of this appeal, plaintiff was unable to return to work and receives continuous medical care, supervision and treatment to maintain everyday functions at hospitals and at Magnus Farm and Nursing Home.

Pursuant to the terms of the insurance policy, from the time of the accident in February 1972 until about April 1973, defendant made payments to plaintiff for both medical and loss of income benefits. In March 1973, defendant directed an investigation to determine plaintiff's progress and the extent of her disability. Defendant demanded proof that plaintiff's disability continued and plaintiff provided a full medical history, additional medical reports, and reports from the supervisor at the nursing home, all attesting to the fact that her disability was caused by the accident and was continuing and permanent. The investigation revealed that plaintiff had suffered prior mental problems and defendant contended that there was a discrepancy between her claimed medical and physical condition and that observed by its investigators. Defendant terminated benefit payments about April 1973.

Thus, plaintiff filed an action against defendant seeking a declaration that (1) she was entitled to medical expenses and loss of income benefits, (2) article 35 of the Insurance Code, including section 603(b), which provides for the recovery of treble damages in the event of a willful refusal to pay benefits, was incorporated into the insurance policy, and (3) defendant was liable for treble damages. Plaintiff also sought a money judgment for her medical expenses, loss of income, treble damages and a recovery based on intentional and outrageous conduct.

Defendant moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a cause of action. A hearing on the motion was limited to the question of whether plaintiff was entitled to seek treble damages on the ground that section 603(b) of article 35 was incorporated by reference into the policy. Defendant's motion was sustained on the basis that article 35 was declared unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court in Grace v. Howlett (1972), 51 Ill.2d 478, 283 N.E.2d 474. An order was entered dismissing only those portions of the complaint seeking the recovery of treble damages. On rehearing, a motion to vacate the order was denied. Plaintiff appeals from the order on rehearing.

The issues on appeal are (1) whether section 603(b) of article 35 was incorporated by reference into the insurance contract and (2) whether defendant waived its unconstitutionality defense by continuing to make payments to plaintiff after article 35 was declared unconstitutional.

Defendant contends that plaintiff has no statutory right to recover treble damages because section 603(b), which created the treble damages recovery, was not incorporated by reference into the insurance contract between plaintiff and defendant. It is defendant's conviction that the phrase "in accordance with Article XXXV of the Illinois Insurance Code" is not sufficient language to incorporate the statute into the policy.

Plaintiff contends that the rider incorporated section 603(b) into the contract and argues that the language in question is comparable to language held sufficient to incorporate the statute in Landis, for the use of Talley v. New Amsterdam Casualty Co. (1952), 347 Ill. App. 560, 107 N.E.2d 187. In Landis, the insurance contract did not contain an omnibus clause but contained a statement that the policy "must comply with the `Financial Responsibility Law' of any State which should be applicable with respect to any liability arising out of the use of the automobile of insured." The court concluded that the reference in the policy to the financial responsibility law caused the omnibus clause to be read into the policy. Landis, at 566.

• 1 A contract may consist of several documents connected to a signed document by reference. (7039 Wentworth Avenue Building Corp. v. Trough (1947), 332 Ill. App. 635, 636, 76 N.E.2d 350.) The reference must show an intention to incorporate the document and make it a part of the contract. Continental Illinois ...

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