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Brile v. Estate of Matthew Brile

May 21, 1998

MARION D. BRILE, AS SURVIVING SPOUSE AND ADMINISTRATOR FOR HER NEXT OF KIN, CHRISTOPHER BRILE, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE ESTATE OF MATTHEW BRILE, DECEASED, AND MATTHEW BRILE, PERSONALLY, DEFENDANTS. (DANIEL MINTER, AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE ESTATE OF MATTHEW BRILE, DECEASED, THIRD- PARTY PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT; AND FEDERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, INCORRECTLY NAMED AS THE CHUBB GROUP OF INSURANCE COMPANIES, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT-APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 94--L--619 Honorable Edward R. Duncan, Jr., Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Thomas

THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

The plaintiff, Marion D. Brile, as surviving spouse and as administrator for her next of kin, Christopher Brile, deceased, filed a wrongful death action against her son, Matthew Brile, deceased, arising from a vehicular accident that occurred while Matthew was driving and Christopher was riding with him as a passenger. Thereafter, Marion, as administrator of Christopher's estate, and Daniel Minter, as special administrator of Matthew's estate, filed this declaratory judgment action against the third-party defendant, Federal Insurance Company (Federal), seeking a declaration that a certain policy of insurance issued by Federal to Christopher's employer, Photocomm, Inc. (Photocomm), afforded coverage to Matthew. The parties filed cross- motions for summary judgment in the declaratory judgment action. The trial court granted summary judgment for Federal. The third-party plaintiffs (the plaintiffs) appeal from that ruling.

FACTS

The parties do not contest the facts presented to the trial court. The record reveals that Christopher began working for Photocomm at its Downers Grove, Illinois, office in January 1991, as a marketing representative. He worked in that office with one other employee. The office contained sales and promotional literature, marketing props, demonstration models, and customer files.

In 1992, Myron Anduri, Photocomm's vice-president of sales, decided to close the Downers Grove office. As part of that decision, Anduri offered Christopher a promotion that involved a relocation from Chicago to Denver. Anduri decided to offer Christopher the relocation for two reasons. First, Photocomm had a much greater need in Denver than Chicago for someone of Christopher's talent, and, second, Photocomm viewed him as a very promising employee.

In June 1992, Christopher accepted the offer to transfer from Chicago to Denver. Anduri and Christopher agreed on a plan that required Christopher to vacate and close the Downers Grove office in September 1992 and begin working in Denver at that time. Under the plan, the Brile family would remain in Chicago until February 1993 and then move to Denver. After some delays, Christopher vacated the Downers Grove office as of September 25, 1992. He was scheduled to begin work in Denver on Monday, September 28, 1992.

As part of the transfer, Anduri prepared a relocation package for Christopher, which provided that Photocomm would pay for Christopher's direct and indirect moving expenses. Photocomm asked Christopher to close the Downers Grove office and to pack and ship the contents of the office to Denver, including the inventory, marketing materials, equipment and customer files. The shipment of the customer files was the most important concern for Photocomm since it considered them to be important assets. Normally, Photocomm would package and ship the contents of the office by common carrier. However, shipping by common carrier was expensive and difficult. So Photocomm decided that Christopher would rent a truck and move the contents of the office, along with enough personal items to allow him to begin working in the Colorado office. Anduri agreed to reimburse Christopher for the truck rental for this "dual purpose." Anduri did not consider the cost of the rental truck as one of Christopher's moving expenses, but, rather, he considered it a company expense to move a company product.

Christopher was responsible for choosing the rental company and reserving and renting the truck. On the morning of September 24, 1992, Marion dropped off Christopher at the rental dealer. Christopher entered into a rental agreement using his own name and address. He paid for the rental truck by using his personal credit card. Photocomm's name did not appear on the rental agreement.

After renting the truck, Christopher took the empty truck to Photocomm's office where he loaded everything remaining in the office. From there, Christopher went to a family storage unit where he loaded some personal items on the truck. At this point, the truck was one- quarter to one-third full. Christopher then went to his home and loaded some more personal items onto the truck.

Anduri knew that Christopher was to leave Chicago on Saturday, arrive in Denver on Sunday evening, and then begin work on Monday morning. Since Christopher was a salaried employee, Photocomm did not intend to pay him any additional money for his time in traveling. It considered Christopher's relocation travel to be part of his responsibilities for which he was being compensated through his salary. Photocomm considered Christopher to be within the scope of his employment with Photocomm while on the drive from Chicago to Denver.

Christopher left for Denver at 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 26, 1992. He decided to drive all night and take his son Matthew along to help with the driving. About 8 a.m., on September 27, 1992, Matthew was driving when their vehicle was involved in a one-car accident, killing both Christopher and Matthew. Christopher had not informed Photocomm that Matthew would accompany him or drive on the trip.

Following the accident, Anduri was informed that the contents of the truck had been strewn along the highway and then placed in a warehouse in Nebraska. Anduri was tremendously concerned about the customer files that had been on the truck. He sent Chris Pinelli, a Photocomm employee, to salvage Photocomm items that had been on the truck, especially the customer files. Pinelli eventually traveled to Nebraska, loaded the salvageable Photocomm property, ...


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