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Economy Preferred Insurance Co. v. Ingold

December 17, 1998

ECONOMY PREFERRED INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
NANCY INGOLD AND HERBERT INGOLD, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from Circuit court of McLean County 97MR6

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

Honorable Ronald C. Dozier, Judge Presiding.

In January 1997, plaintiff, Economy Preferred Insurance Company (Insurance Company), brought a declaratory judgment action against defendants, Nancy Ingold and Herbert Ingold. The Insurance Company sought a declaration that the per-person coverage limit of $100,000, contained in an automobile insurance contract between the parties, applied both to Nancy's claim for personal injuries caused by an unin-sured motorist and to Herbert's claim for loss of consortium resulting from Nancy's injuries. In February 1998, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the Insurance Company. The Ingolds appeal, claiming only that the court erred by granting summary judgment. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed. In May 1996, Nancy was injured in an automobile accident involving an uninsured motorist. At that time, the Ingolds were covered by the Insurance Company under an automobile insurance policy, which included coverage for injuries caused by uninsured motorists. However, that coverage was subject to liability limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.

The Ingolds sought payment from the Insurance Company for (1) Nancy's personal injuries; and (2) Herbert's loss of consortium resulting from Nancy's injuries, pursuant to the uninsured motorist coverage of the insurance policy. The Insurance Company offered to make a single payment to the Ingolds of the per-person policy limit of $100,000. The Ingolds declined this offer because they contended that Herbert's loss of consortium claim was a separate claim, subject to a separate payment up to the $100,000 limit.

In January 1997, the Insurance Company filed this declaratory judgment action, and in September 1997, it moved for summary judgment. In February 1998, following a hearing, the trial court entered summary judgment for the Insurance Company, concluding that "the personal injury claim of [Nancy] and the loss of consortium claim of [Herbert] are both included in the 'per[-]person' limit of liability."

This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

We review a trial court's construction of an insurance policy contract de novo. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Villicana, 181 Ill. 2d 436, 441, 692 N.E.2d 1196, 1199 (1998).

The Ingolds contend that the insurance policy's provision describing the per-person limit of coverage is ambiguous. Specifically, they claim that the language of that provision is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation, including their interpretation that Herbert may receive payment up to the per-person limit, regardless of the amount Nancy receives for her personal injuries. Accordingly, they urge this court to apply the rule of insurance policy construction that terms subject to more than one reasonable interpretation should be construed in favor of the insured (Hall v. Burger, 277 Ill. App. 3d 757, 761, 660 N.E.2d 1328, 1331 (1996)). However, because we conclude that the terms of the insurance policy at issue are clear and unambiguous, we apply them as written and affirm the trial court. See State Farm, 181 Ill. 2d at 441-42, 692 N.E.2d at 1199 ("We will apply [insurance policy] terms as written unless such application contravenes public policy").

The relevant portion of the policy provision describing the perperson limit of coverage reads as follows:

"The limit of liability shown in the [d]eclarations for each person for [u]ninsured *** [m]otorists [c]overage for bodily injury is our maximum limit of liability for all damages, including damages for care, loss of services or death, arising out of bodily injury sustained by any one person in any one accident." (Emphasis added; boldface denotes emphasis in original.)

This language is unambiguous. It clearly states that the per-person limit of liability applies to "all damages"--"including damages for *** loss of services"--arising out of an ...


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