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06/26/87 State Farm Mutual v. Richard J. Byrne

June 26, 1987

STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

RICHARD J. BYRNE, INDIV. AND AS ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF COLLEEN R. BYRNE, DECEASED, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS (JEFFREY C. SMITH ET AL., DEFENDANTS)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

510 N.E.2d 131, 156 Ill. App. 3d 1098, 109 Ill. Dec. 510 1987.IL.902

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Charles F. Scott, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE UNVERZAGT delivered the opinion of the court. REINHARD and DUNN, JJ. concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE UNVERZAGT

Plaintiff, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm), sought a declaratory judgment that it was not obligated to provide liability coverage to defendant, Ronald S. Acker, for claims asserted by defendants, Richard Byrne, Lillian Burrgess Kosrow, and Carol Robinson. The circuit court of Lake County granted State Farm's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, defendants' basic contentions include that any ambiguity regarding the term "relative" in the policy should be construed in favor of the insured, State Farm is obligated to insure Acker because Acker is related to the named insured, and policy considerations require recognition of a restructured family unit.

The facts are not in dispute. On March 2, 1985, Acker was driving a car owned by Jeffrey Smith when he collided with the second car operated by Beverly Robinson with passengers Colleen Byrne and Mary Ann Hoffman. Robinson, Byrne, and Hoffman died as a result of the injuries they sustained in the collision. The administrators of their estates brought suit against Ronald Acker and Jeffrey Smith, among others, for wrongful death.

At the time of the accident, State Farm had issued a policy of automobile insurance to Smith. Under the terms of the policy, Smith, relatives that lived with him, and anyone Smith allowed to use his car were insured. The trial court dismissed the issue of permissive use and found that Acker did not qualify as Smith's relative under the policy. The record reveals that Acker is the brother of Smith's stepmother. Smith cohabited with his father, his stepmother, and Acker. Defendants' position on appeal is that Acker is Smith's stepuncle and is covered under Smith's policy.

The insurance policy issued to Jeffrey Smith provides in relevant part:

"Who Is an Insured

When we refer to your car, a newly acquired car or a temporary substitute care, insured means:

1. you;

2. your spouse;

3. the relatives of the first person named in the ...


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