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01/17/89 Allstate Insurance Company v. Edward Tucker

January 17, 1989

ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

EDWARD TUCKER, SR., SPECIAL ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF TYRONE L. TUCKER, DECEASED, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SECOND DIVISION

(Michael Bernickus et al., Defendants)

533 N.E.2d 1004, 178 Ill. App. 3d 809, 127 Ill. Dec. 922 1989.IL.34

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. George M. Marovich, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE BILANDIC delivered the opinion of the court. HARTMAN and SCARIANO, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BILANDIC

Plaintiff, Allstate Insurance Company, brought this action seeking a judicial declaration that an automobile driven by defendant Michael Bernickus and involved in an accident was not an "insured auto" entitled to coverage under a liability insurance policy issued to his father, Robert C. Bernickus. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Allstate. Bernickus is not involved in this appeal. The appeal is brought by the estate of Tyrone L. Tucker, the decedent, and the persons injured in the accident.

On May 15, 1985, Robert C. Bernickus went to an Allstate office at the Sears Louis-Joliet Mall to inquire about automobile liability insurance for his automobiles. He had a conversation with Leo Bick, the sales agent for Allstate. Bernickus told the Allstate agent that he wanted insurance for a 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass and a 1974 Mercury Capri. At this time, only the Oldsmobile was operational. There was a Discussion regarding the immediate need for insurance of policies for both cars since the Capri was not going to be operated for some time. There is a disputed question of fact regarding when and how the Capri would be covered. However, a policy issued immediately for the 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Bernickus asserts that it was represented to him that when the Capri became operational, it would be treated as an "additional vehicle" under the policy already issued. Bernickus need only report to Bick that it was in operation within 60 days of its becoming so.

he Capri became operational on June 4, 1985. Five days later, on June 9, 1985, the Capri was involved in an accident which caused injuries to the defendant-appellants herein. Allstate was promptly notified that the Capri was operational and involved in an accident. On December 9, 1985, Allstate brought this declaratory judgment action to determine that no coverage could be provided to Robert and Michael Bernickus under its policy for the June 9, 1985, accident.

he trial court granted Allstate's motion for summary judgment. The principal issue on appeal is whether the trial court was correct when it decided that Allstate is not estopped to deny coverage under its policy on the basis of alleged misrepresentations by its agent.

The Allstate policy provides that an "insured auto" is one that is listed on the declarations page. It is undisputed that the 1974 Capri was not listed and, therefore, not covered on the basis of this test. However, the policy also provided that an "insured auto" included "(2) an additional vehicle acquired during the policy period, so long as Allstate is informed within 60 days of its purchase."

Defendants contend that Bick, Allstate's agent, led Bernickus to believe that the Capri would be treated as "an additional vehicle" once it became operational. Therefore, Bernickus believed the 1974 Capri was covered so long as Allstate was informed within 60 days that the Capri was operational. In reliance, Bernickus did not inform Allstate immediately that the Capri was functional but did so well within the 60-day period. Less than one week after the Capri became operational, Bernickus' son was involved in the accident at issue. Defendants contend that Allstate is now estopped from denying coverage.

Allstate contends that Bick's statements to Bernickus could not reasonably be construed to support defendants' theory and, therefore, the trial court properly ruled in its favor.

Estoppel generally refers to reliance by one party on the words or conduct of another such that the first party changes his position and suffers harm as a result. (Gary-Wheaton Bank v. Meyer (1984), 130 Ill. App. 3d 87, 95-96, 473 N.E.2d 548, appeal denied (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 554.) To establish an estoppel in an insurance policy context, an insured must show: (1) that he was misled by the acts or statements of the insurer or its agent; (2) reliance by the insured on those representations; (3) that such reliance was reasonable; and (4) detriment or prejudice suffered by ...


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