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West American Insurance Company v. Bedwell

August 04, 1999

WEST AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DARYL BEDWELL, CRYSTAL BEDWELL, AND BUSHNELL GOLF CLUB, INC., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of McDonough County, Illinois Ninth Judicial Circuit No. 96-MR-64 Honorable John R. Clerkin Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Koehler

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

The plaintiff-appellant, West American Insurance Company (West American) appeals from the McDonough County circuit court's order denying its motion for judgment on the pleadings and granting the defendants-appellees' motion for summary judgment. On review, this court answers the following question: Did the circuit court err when it concluded that, under the Illinois Insurance Code (215 ILCS 5/143.01(a) (West 1996)), West American owes a duty to defend its policy holders against claims for contribution deriving from a personal injury action? Because we conclude that the circuit court did not err, we affirm.

FACTS

Curtis Bedwell (Curtis), son of Daryl and Crystal Bedwell (the Bedwells), was riding on a rented golf cart with Daryl and a friend at Bushnell Golf Club (Bushnell) when Curtis was struck in the head by a golf ball hit by Gregory Kreps, another golfer. Curtis suffered head injuries, and the Bedwells filed a personal injury action against Kreps and Bushnell. Alleging negligence, both Bushnell and Kreps filed counterclaims for contribution against the Bedwells. West American denied the Bedwells' request for West American to defend them against the counterclaims pursuant to their homeowner's insurance policy. West American based its denial on the policy's household exclusion under which bodily injuries to the insured are not covered.

West American filed a complaint for declaratory judgment asking the circuit court to conclude that under the policy it does not owe a duty to defend the Bedwells against the counterclaims. The Bedwells filed a counterclaim for declaratory judgment seeking a declaration that West American owes a duty to defend. West American also filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the Bedwells filed a motion for summary judgment asking the circuit court to conclude that, under section 143.01 of the Illinois Insurance Code, the policy's household exclusion does not apply and, therefore, West American owes a duty to defend. Subsequently, the circuit court concluded that: (1) a golf cart is a vehicle; (2) the Insurance Code precludes the policy's household or family member exclusion and transforms the homeowner's policy into a policy of vehicle insurance; and (3) West American has a duty to defend the counterclaims filed against the Bedwells. West American now appeals from the order denying its motion for judgment on the pleadings and granting the Bedwells' summary judgment.

ANALYSIS

The issue before this court is whether the circuit court erred when it concluded that West American owes a duty under the insurance policy and, therefore, denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings and granted summary judgment. A motion for judgment on the pleadings requires a determination of whether the pleadings raise any issue of material fact. Kahn v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 186 Ill. App. 3d 803, 805, 542 N.E.2d 878, 880 (1989). If there is no issue of material fact, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Kahn, 186 Ill. App. 3d at 805, 542 N.E.2d at 880. Additionally,

"[i]n appeals from summary judgment rulings, we conduct a de novo review. [Citations.] Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. [Citation.] *** Where a reasonable person could draw divergent inferences from undisputed facts, summary judgment should be denied. [Citation.]" Outboard Marine Corp. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., 154 Ill. 2d 90, 102, 607 N.E.2d 1204, 1209 (1992). The construction of an insurance policy is also a matter of law that we review de novo. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Villicana, 181 Ill. 2d 436, 441, 692 N.E.2d 1196, 1199 (1998).

West American argues that the policy's household exclusion applies in these circumstances and, therefore, it does not owe a duty to the insured or to the insured's family members. According to West American, because the counterclaims are all related to Curtis' bodily injuries, they fall under the household exclusion of insured's. West American asserts that section 143.01 does not render the exclusion inapplicable because a golf cart is not a vehicle as defined by the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/1-217 (West 1996)) and the vehicle-related insurance that the policy does provide is too limited to classify the policy as vehicle insurance under the Insurance Code. Even if the golf cart is a vehicle, section 143.01 does not apply because, although Curtis' injury occurred while he was situated on the golf cart, the golf cart did not cause the injury.

The Bedwells argue that West American's policy provides coverage for a golf cart and is, therefore, a policy of vehicle insurance to which the Insurance Code applies. The Bedwells assert that the Insurance Code does not define vehicle and, therefore, the term should be given its ordinary meaning. Moreover, the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-1428(d) (West 1996)) defines a golf cart as a vehicle. The Bedwells contend that because section 143.01 applies to render the policy's household exclusion inoperative, West American owes a duty to defend.

"In construing an insurance policy, the court must ascertain the intent of the parties to the contract. [Citation.]" Outboard Marine Corp., 154 Ill. 2d at 108, 607 N.E.2d at 1211. In so doing, the court construes the policy as a whole "with due regard to the risk undertaken, the subject matter that is insured and the purposes of the entire contract [citation]." Outboard Marine Corp., 154 Ill. 2d at 108, 607 N.E.2d at 1211. Where the policy's words are unambiguous, the plain, ordinary and popular meaning must be given them. Outboard Marine Corp., 154 Ill. 2d at 108, 607 N.E.2d at 1211. However, if the words are ambiguous, the policy will be construed in favor of the insured and against the insurer who drafted the policy. Outboard Marine Corp., 154 Ill. 2d at 108, 607 N.E.2d at 1211. Additionally, "it is [well settled] that, in determining whether an insurer has a duty to defend its insured, the court must look to the allegations in the underlying complaint and compare these allegations to the relevant coverage provisions of the insurance policy. [Citation.]" Crum & Forster Managers Corp. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 156 Ill. 2d 384, 393, 620 N.E.2d 1073, 1079 (1993). "If the facts alleged *** fall within, or potentially within, the policy's coverage provisions, then the insurer has a duty to defend the insured in the underlying action. [Citation.]" Crum & Forster, 156 Ill. 2d at 393, 620 N.E.2d at 1079. "The insurer's duty to defend is much broader than its duty to indemnify its insured. [citation.]" Crum & Forster, 156 Ill. 2d at 393-94, 620 N.E.2d at 1079.

West American's policy provides: "personal liability does not apply to [] bodily injury to you or an insured within the meaning of part a. or b. of 'insured' as defined." "Insured" is defined as "[y]ou and residents of your ...


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