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06/20/97 CLIFFORD P. BERUTTI AND HELGA H. BERUTTI

June 20, 1997

CLIFFORD P. BERUTTI AND HELGA H. BERUTTI, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 96--MR--35. Honorable R. Peter Grometer, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication July 18, 1997.

The Honorable Justice McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court. Geiger, P.j., and Inglis, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mclaren

McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiffs, Clifford Berutti and Helga Berutti, appeal the circuit court's order granting summary judgment for defendant, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm). Plaintiffs sought a declaration that defendant was required to pay benefits for Helga Berutti's loss of consortium claim under plaintiffs' underinsured motorist coverage. Defendant argued that it had tendered the one-person policy limit for Clifford Berutti's injuries and Helga's claim for loss of consortium was not a separate injury. The trial court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment and denied plaintiffs' motion. On appeal, plaintiffs contend that the court erred in holding that the policy did not provide separate coverage for Helga's loss of consortium claim and that, in any event, such an interpretation is contrary to public policy.

On June 10, 1994, plaintiffs' van collided with a car driven by Daniel Gallagher. Gallagher was insured by a policy with bodily injury liability limits of $100,000 per person. Clifford Berutti received the $100,000 per-person limit of Gallagher's policy to cover his personal injuries.

Plaintiffs owned a State Farm policy providing underinsured motorist coverage with limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence. They filed a claim under the policy, contending that the amount received from Gallagher's insurer was insufficient to compensate for Clifford Berutti's injuries and Helga Berutti's loss of consortium. When defendant denied the claim, the present action ensued.

As noted, the trial court granted defendant's summary judgment motion and denied plaintiffs' motion. Plaintiffs filed a timely notice of appeal.

On appeal, the central issue is whether Clifford's bodily injuries and Helga's loss of consortium constitute a single injury within the meaning of their underinsured motorist coverage or whether Helga's loss of consortium claim constitutes a separate injury for which a separate "per person" limit applies. Plaintiffs argue that the policy is ambiguous and, as such, must be construed most strongly against the insurance company, which drafted it.

Defendant responds that the policy unambiguously provides that "one person" means "one person injured." Because only Clifford was physically injured and Helga's claim is a direct consequence of that injury, plaintiffs would be entitled only to the "per person" liability limit, or $100,000. Because Clifford has already received the $100,000 limit applicable to both policies from Gallagher's insurer, no further amount is due from defendant.

Defendant's policy provides:

"Underinsured Motor Vehicle--means a land motor vehicle:

1. the ownership, maintenance or use of which:

a. is insured or bonded for bodily injury liability at the time of ...


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