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11/29/88 Travelers Insurance v. Todd J. Bodoh

November 29, 1988





531 N.E.2d 423, 176 Ill. App. 3d 664, 126 Ill. Dec. 128 1988.IL.1715

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. John S. Teschner, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE NASH delivered the opinion of the court: INGLIS and UNVERZAGT, JJ., concur.


Plaintiff, Travelers Insurance Company (Travelers), appeals from an order entered in this declaratory judgment action which directed plaintiff to provide insurance coverage to defendant, Todd Bodoh. Plaintiff contends that the judgment should be vacated and a finding entered in its favor. We vacate and remand with directions.

Defendant purchased an insurance policy from Travelers on approximately August 13, 1985, which insured his 1980 Buick Regal automobile. At some time before November 5, 1985, defendant called his insurance agent, Catherine Clinton, and inquired about the cost of insuring a 1982 Chevrolet Corvette. Clinton gave him a general idea of the price and instructed defendant to call her if he purchased the car.

On November 2, 1985, defendant completed the preliminary application forms for the purchase of a Corvette, on one of which he indicated that the Corvette would be insured by State Farm Insurance Company. On November 5, defendant went to his insurance agency and made the final installment payment on his automobile insurance policy for the period from August 13, 1985, to February 13, 1986, but he did not mention the Corvette to his insurance agent at this time.

The events surrounding the period after November 5 are disputed. Defendant stated that he picked up the Corvette on November 5, and, shortly after, drove to his insurance agent's office to "show off" his new car. He did not remember whether he specifically asked Catherine Clinton to replace the Regal with the Corvette on his policy. Catherine Clinton stated that defendant never notified her that he had purchased the Corvette and that she did not hear from anyone about the car until she was notified that defendant was in an accident.

On December 20, 1985, defendant was involved in a serious automobile accident while driving the Corvette, and, on the next day, defendant's mother informed Catherine Clinton that he had an accident. On December 27, 1985, Clinton informed plaintiff that defendant had replaced the Regal with a Corvette and that an accident had already been reported.

In mid-January 1986, plaintiff sent defendant a coverage continuation proposal for the Regal automobile for the period from February 13 to August 13, 1986. At the same time, plaintiff requested information about the Corvette's cost, which Clinton provided. Defendant's parents were handling his financial affairs while he was in the hospital, and they paid the first installment on the renewal policy. In February, defendant received a second premium statement, which continued to reflect the Regal as the insured vehicle. Defendant's parents paid the final installment on the policy, and on March 16, 1986, he requested that his coverage be cancelled.

In April 1986, plaintiff filed an action in the circuit court seeking declaration of the rights and liabilities under the policy. Travelers also asked that the court declare that it was not liable for coverage arising out of defendant's accident because defendant had not notified Travelers of the replacement vehicle in a timely manner. A trial was held, and the court found in defendant's favor. In its opinion letter, the trial court framed the key issue as whether:

"Travelers is estopped from denying coverage on a replacement vehicle when written notice is given more than 30 days after the vehicle is acquired and the carrier has received premiums on the policy billed by its computer listing the old car."

The trial court's opinion letter did not state whether it had made any finding as to notice. On October 27, 1986, when defendant presented the draft order requested by the court, Travelers objected, saying that the order did not specify whether notice was given within the 30-day time period. The Judge refused to make the order more specific, stating: "Even if the notice were not 30 days [ sic ...

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