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John Deere Insurance Co. v. Allstate Insurance Co.

July 29, 1998

JOHN DEERE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, JOHN G. THOMAS AND MARK E. GOSSETT, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES. ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY AND JOHN G. THOMAS, COUNTERPLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
JOHN DEERE INSURANCE COMPANY, COUNTERDEFENDANT-APPELLANT. MARK E. GOSSETT, COUNTERPLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JOHN DEERE INSURANCE COMPANY, ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY AND JOHN G. THOMAS, COUNTERDEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke delivered the opinion of the court:

(NUNC PRO TUNC as of June 30, 1998)

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Plaintiff John Deere Insurance Company (John Deere) appeals from an order of the circuit court denying its motion for summary judgment and granting defendants, Allstate Insurance Company's (Allstate), John Thomas' (Thomas) and Mark Gossett's (Gossett) cross-motions for summary judgment in John Deere's declaratory judgment action to determine whether it had an obligation to defend or indemnify Thomas, Allstate's insured, in an underlying action filed by Gossett against Thomas, for injuries Gossett allegedly suffered as a result of being struck by an automobile driven by Thomas. On appeal, John Deere contends that: (1) Thomas was not an insured under the terms of a garage insurance policy issued by John Deere (John Deere policy) to Rock River Ford, Inc. (Rock River Ford), an automobile dealership; (2) Illinois law does not require automobile dealers to provide liability insurance coverage to permissive users of their insured automobiles; and (3) even if Thomas was an insured under the John Deere policy, the liability coverage under the policy was limited to the "$20,000/$40,000" mandatory minimum limits set forth in sections 7--203 and 7--601 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. 625 ILCS 5/7--203, 5/7--601 (West 1993). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

On August 9, 1995, Rock River Ford gave Thomas, its customer, permission to test drive one of its automobiles, during which time Thomas allegedly struck and injured Gossett, a pedestrian. On the day of the accident, Rock River Ford was insured under the John Deere policy. Rock River Ford had previously referred to this policy in a certificate of insurance which was attached to its 1994 application to the Secretary of State for a new and used car dealers' license for the year ending December 31, 1995. In the certificate, Rock River Ford specifically stated that the policy included garage liability limits in the amount of $500,000 per accident. In fact, section IV of the John Deere Policy, entitled "GARAGE LIABILITY LIMITS/COVERAGES," provided that "each 'accident' " related to "garage operations" would be covered in the amount of $500,000. Under the John Deere policy issued to Rock River Ford, an "insured" was defined as follows:

"WHO IS AN INSURED

a. The following are 'insureds' for covered 'autos':

(1) You for any covered 'auto.'

(2) Anyone else while using with your permission a covered 'auto' you own *** except: ***

(d) Your customers, if your business is shown in the Declarations as an 'auto' dealership. However, if a customer of yours:

(i) Has no other available insurance (whether primary, excess, or contingent), they are an 'insured' but only up to the compulsory or financial responsibility law limits where the covered 'auto' is principally garaged.

(ii) Has other available insurance (whether primary, excess, or contingent) less than the compulsory or financial responsibility law limits where the covered 'auto' is principally garaged, they are an 'insured' only for the amount by which the compulsory or financial responsibility law limits exceed the limit of their other insurance."

Thomas was also personally covered at the time of the alleged accident by a separate automobile liability insurance policy issued to him by Allstate (Allstate policy) that had liability limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per occurrence. The Allstate policy defined an "insured auto" as, inter alia, a "non-owned private passenger auto used by you or a resident relative with the owner's permission. This auto must not be available or furnished for the regular use of an insured person." The Allstate policy further provided:

"If There Is Other Insurance

If an insured person is using a substitute private passenger auto or non-owned auto, our liability insurance will be excess over other collectible insurance. If more than one policy applies on a primary basis to an accident involving your insured auto, we will bear ...


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