APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT
517 N.E.2d 290, 162 Ill. App. 3d 594, 115 Ill. Dec. 88 1987.IL.1527
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Warren County; the Hon. U. S. Collins, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WOMBACHER delivered the opinion of the court. BARRY, P.J., and HEIPLE, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WOMBACHER
Plaintiffs, Lewis E. Bloomgren and Lynn Reckman Bloomgren, brought an action an insurance policy against the defendant, Fire Insurance Exchange. Plaintiffs sought to recover damages for real and personal property destroyed in a fire at Lewis E. Bloomgren's home on May 1, 1983. The trial court granted defendant's motion for a directed verdict with regard to third party Lynn Reckman Bloomgren (hereafter Lynn), finding that she had no direct rights against the insurer. After a bench trial, judgment was entered in favor of plaintiff Lewis E. Bloomgren for $98,561.52 plus costs, with a credit of $40,752.87 upon release of a mortgage assigned to defendant as a result of the payment to the mortgagee under the mortgage clause of the policy of insurance. Defendant appeals.
This case arose out of a fire which destroyed plaintiff's home in Warren County, Illinois. Plaintiff occupied the house along with his fiancee, Lynn. The value of the property destroyed in the fire had been stipulated to and is not in dispute. This action was brought following the insurer's refusal to make payment under its policy.
On the day of the fire, Lynn left the house with her daughter at about 8:40 a.m. to visit her grandmother in Clinton, Iowa. The plaintiff left the house at approximately 9:10 a.m. When he left, the doors and windows were locked. Plaintiff testified that he left the house because he wanted to catch up with Lynn because he needed some money. He stated that he went to Lynn's mother's house, but they had already left. After running several errands in Galesburg, he returned home and discovered that his house was on fire.
Several neighbors testified with regard to their observations of the fire. Diana Johnson, who lived with her husband across the road from the Bloomgren house, noticed sparks coming from the north light on the attached garage sometime between 9:20 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. but she did not notice any smoke at that time. Later, sometime between 9:40 and 9:45, she saw black smoke coming out of the chimney on the south side of the house. She called the fire department at 10:10 a.m.
Claris Eugene Johnson testified that at approximately 10 a.m. he looked at the Bloomgren house and saw a lot of dark grey smoke coming from the fireplace. As he walked into the plaintiff's driveway, he saw sparks coming from the north garage light and he also saw flames coming from that light. He saw white smoke coming out of the shingles on the roof of the garage. He did not notice any odor of burning gasoline.
Another neighbor, Harry Brown, testified that after he had finished his chores, at about 9 a.m., he walked by plaintiff's house. At about 9:20 a.m. his wife called him about smoke coming from the plaintiff's roof and sparks jumping from the light on the garage. He stated that he saw black smoke coming out of the chimney sometime before 9:30 a.m. and sparks shooting to the ground from the south light on the garage.
When the fire department arrived there were no signs of forced entry. Richard Baily, a volunteer fireman and assistant fire chief who answered the fire call at plaintiff's residence, testified that he saw smoke coming out of the roof of the garage. He did not smell gasoline and he did not find any gasoline containers in the immediate vicinity of the house. He had previously ...