Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. Martin

May 06, 1998

STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GREGORY LEE MARTIN, SR., SCOTT LEWIS, AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF TIMMIE LEE LEWIS, DECEASED, AND ETHELYN J. GORHAM, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF GARY PORTER, DECEASED, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 93-MR-374 Honorable David Herndon, Judge, presiding.

Kuehn, J. Welch, P.j., and Chapman, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn

Plaintiff, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (State Farm), filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination of whether it owed its insured, Gregory Lee Martin, Sr. (Martin), a defense and indemnification in two underlying wrongful death suits. These suits were based upon Martin's involvement in an arson which resulted in the death of two firemen. State Farm appeals from trial court orders finding that it had a duty to defend and to indemnify Martin. We affirm.

This case originated with an arrangement between Martin and Delaney Gordon, Sr. (Gordon), to destroy a building. Martin owned the designated building. The building was located in Alton, Illinois. Gordon was one of Martin's tenants, and in exchange for his participation, Martin offered him a reduced rental rate.

On October 24, 1992, at approximately 2 a.m., Gordon ignited the fire by leaving an unattended candle in a hamper in the basement. An accelerant was used. By the time the fire was reported and firemen responded, the building was in flames. As the fire intensified, the building's second floor collapsed onto some of the firemen. Firemen Timmie Lee Lewis and Gary Porter perished.

Martin and Gordon were indicted by a federal grand jury for damaging by fire a building used in interstate commerce, directly causing a death, in violation of section 844(i) of the Anti-Arson Act of 1982 (18 U.S.C. §844(i) (1988)).

Defendants Scott Lewis (Lewis) and Ethelyn J. Gorham (Gorham) were appointed executors of the estates of Timmie Lee Lewis and Gary Porter, respectively. Lewis filed a wrongful death suit against Martin and Gordon on or about June 7, 1993. Gorham filed her suit on or about July 7, 1993. Both suits alleged that Martin negligently started the fire with the knowledge that firemen would respond.

State Farm insured Martin's building. Martin tendered both wrongful death suits to State Farm. State Farm denied coverage and refused to defend Martin. Martin did not answer the suits.

State Farm filed the declaratory judgment action on August 20, 1993, alleging that the underlying actions did not constitute an occurrence as defined in the policy and that Martin's actions triggered two coverage exclusions. State Farm asked the trial court to declare that there was no coverage under the Martin liability policy for the suits filed by the deceased firemen's estates. State Farm also asked the trial court to declare that it had no duty to defend Martin in the underlying suits because of the lack of coverage. Defendant Gorham sought to stay the declaratory judgment action until the federal criminal cases then pending against Martin and Gordon were resolved. Defendant Lewis had not yet answered State Farm's declaratory judgment petition and thus did not file a motion to stay. State Farm opposed the stay. The trial court entered an order on February 24, 1994, staying the declaratory judgment action. The order further stated that any party could move to lift the stay upon resolution of the criminal cases. The record does not contain any order staying the wrongful death suits.

On September 23, 1994, Martin was found guilty on the indictment and in December 1994 was sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment.

During the summer of 1995, Gorham and Lewis defaulted Martin on the wrongful death suits. On August 8, 1995, the trial court entered judgment on the negligence counts of Gorham's wrongful death suit against Martin in the amount of $10 million. On September 5, 1995, the trial court entered judgment on Lewis's suit against Martin in the amount of $9 million. Sometime in September 1995, after default judgments were taken in both suits, State Farm offered Martin a defense.

The record contains no order lifting the stay imposed upon the declaratory judgment action following the criminal case's Conclusion. However, on April 18, 1995, approximately seven months after Martin's conviction, State Farm filed a summary judgment motion in the declaratory judgment action seeking a determination that it had no duty to defend and indemnify Martin in the underlying suits. On August 30, 1995, the trial court found that coverage existed, and the court denied State Farm's motion for summary judgment.

Gorham filed her motion for summary judgment on September 20, 1995. On September 29, 1995, State Farm filed a motion to reconsider the order denying its summary judgment motion. On October 4, 1995, the trial court granted Gorham's motion for summary judgment and denied State Farm's motion to reconsider. The record does not reflect that Lewis filed a motion for summary judgment, but the October 4, 1995, order stated that he did. The order granted Lewis's summary judgment motion. The trial court determined that coverage existed and that State Farm had a duty to both defend and indemnify Martin. State Farm appeals both orders.

Summary judgment should only be granted when the pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits on file show that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Myers v. Health Specialists, S.C., 225 Ill. App. 3d 68, 72, 587 N.E.2d 494, 497 (1992). On appeal, courts review summary ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.