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07/31/97 GARY M. KOPIER v. MARK E. HARLOW

July 31, 1997

GARY M. KOPIER, SR., SPECIAL ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF GARY M. KOPIER, JR., DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MARK E. HARLOW, RONALD HARLOW, AND SANDRA HARLOW, DEFENDANTS (AMERICAN FAMILY INSURANCE GROUP, INTERVENING PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. GARY M. KOPIER, SR., SPECIAL ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF GARY M. KOPIER, JR., DECEASED, MARK E. HARLOW, RONALD HARLOW AND SANDRA HARLOW, DEFENDANTS).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 95--L--1640. Honorable Jack Hoogasian, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication August 29, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Doyle delivered the opinion of the court. McLAREN and Bowman, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Doyle

The Honorable Justice DOYLE delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Gary M. Kopier, Sr., administrator of the estate of Gary M. Kopier, Jr. (decedent), appeals a judgment declaring defendants' (Mark E. Harlow's, Ronald Harlow's, and Sandra Harlow's) rights under three automobile insurance policies issued by intervening plaintiff American Family Insurance Group (American Family). The trial court ruled that the applicable liability limits were those in the policy on the car that was involved in the accident, not those for another car that defendants own. Plaintiff appeals, arguing that the highest liability limit among the policies should apply. We affirm.

Decedent was killed in an automobile accident when the car he was driving was struck by a vehicle being driven by defendant Mark Harlow. Harlow was covered under three liability policies that American Family issued to his parents. At the time of the accident, Harlow was driving a 1987 Chevrolet Blazer that had bodily injury liability limits of $25,000 for each person and $50,000 for each occurrence. Harlow's parents had two other vehicles insured under separate American Family policies, a 1995 Chevrolet Blazer with bodily injury liability limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence, and a 1988 Chevrolet Beretta with $25,000 and $50,000 limits.

The parties agreed to settle for the policy limits, but disagreed over which limit applied. The parties agreed that American Family would pay the undisputed $25,000 and then file a declaratory judgment action. The trial court approved the settlement.

American Family then filed its complaint for declaratory judgment, seeking a determination by the trial court that the maximum coverage owed was the $25,000 policy limit on the vehicle involved in the accident. Plaintiff and American Family both moved for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the court granted American Family's motion. The court ruled that the relevant policy terms were unambiguous and that plaintiff had cited no authority for the proposition that liability coverage inures to the insured rather than to the covered vehicle.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the court erred in finding that Harlow could not access the $100,000 liability policy limit of the 1995 Chevrolet Blazer.

When the parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, they invite the court to decide the issues presented as a question of law. Giannetti v. Angiuli, 263 Ill. App. 3d 305, 312, 200 Ill. Dec. 744, 635 N.E.2d 1083 (1994). Further, the construction of an insurance policy is a question of law that this court determines de novo, with the purpose of ascertaining and effectuating the intention of the parties. Vanek v. Illinois Farmers Insurance Co., 268 Ill. App. 3d 731, 735, 205 Ill. Dec. 863, 644 N.E.2d 419 (1994). In determining if a policy provision is ambiguous, we consider the policy in its entirety. Shefner v. Illinois Farmers Insurance Co., 243 Ill. App. 3d 683, 686, 183 Ill. Dec. 363, 611 N.E.2d 626 (1993). Where policy language is unambiguous, we must discern the parties' intent directly from that language, without resorting to rules of construction, unless to do so would violate public policy. Vanek, 268 Ill. App. 3d at 735. A provision is ambiguous if it can reasonably be read to have more than one meaning. Shefner, 243 Ill. App. 3d at 686.

The following provisions of the policies at issue are relevant to the issue plaintiff raises. Each policy provided, inter alia:

"AGREEMENT

We agree with you, in return for your premium payment, to insure you subject to all the terms of this policy. We will insure you for the coverages and the limits of liability ...


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