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Indiana Insurance Co. v. Liaskos

June 24, 1998

INDIANA INSURANCE COMPANY, A FOREIGN CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF/COUNTER-DEFENDANT/APPELLEE,
v.
JANET F. LIASKOS, DEFENDANT/COUNTER-PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gordon

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY.

HONORABLE RONALD RILEY, JUDGE PRESIDING.

Indiana Insurance Company (Indiana), the plaintiff, brought a declaratory judgment action against its insured, Janet F. Liaskos, the defendant, seeking a declaration that the loss sustained at Liaskos's home was excluded from coverage under the water damage exclusion. Liaskos filed a four-count counterclaim in which she alleged, inter alia, that her loss was covered under the exception to the water damage exclusion which extended coverage to collapse of a building or part of a building even though caused by water. At the Conclusion of a stipulated bench trial on Indiana's declaratory judgment action, the court entered judgment in favor of Indiana finding that there had been no collapse. The court also dismissed Liaskos's counterclaims. Liaskos appeals contending that a collapse can be deemed to occur where a building does not fall or lose its character. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

BACKGROUND FACTS

A. Insurance Policy Provisions

The homeowners policy issued by Indiana to Liaskos insured against physical loss to the dwelling or structure and damage to personal property in the dwelling. That policy contained two separate exclusion provisions that dealt with the damage encountered in the instant case. The first provision, captioned Section 1, Perils Insured Against, stated that the policy did not insure against loss:

"1. caused by:

b. *** pressure or weight to a foundation, retaining wall or bulkhead; ***

f. (1) wear and tear, marring, deterioration;

(6) settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging or expansion of pavements, patios, foundations, walls, floors, roofs or ceilings."

The second provision, captioned Section I, Exclusions, set forth in the policy and various amendatory endorsements, provided in pertinent part as follows:

"SECTION I -- EXCLUSIONS We do not insure for loss caused directly or indirectly by any of the following. Such loss is excluded regardless of any other cause or event contributing concurrently or in any sequence to the loss.

3. Water Damage, meaning: a. flood, surface water, waves, tidal water, overflow of a body of water, or spray from any of these, whether or not driven by wind;

c. water below the surface of the ground, including water which exerts pressure on or seeps or leaks through a building, sidewalk, driveway, foundation, swimming pool or other structure. If such water causes the collapse of a building or any part of a building, we cover loss caused by the collapse. Collapse does not including [sic] settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging or expansion." The policy also contained a homeowners protective endorsement which covered physical loss caused by sewer back-up subject to a limit of $1,000. That provision stated:

"Back-Up of Sewers or Drains. We cover direct physical loss ...


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