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Farmers Automobile Insurance Association

January 07, 2000

THE FARMERS AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE ASSOCIATION, PLAINTIFF-COUNTERDEFENDANT-APPELLANT,
v.
COUNTRY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-COUNTERPLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, AND HELEN S. VANCE, AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF WILFRED E. VANCE, DECEASED, DEFENDANT-COUNTERDEFENDANT, AND LLOYD T. EYRE AND JANET F. LINDAUER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT LINDAUER, DEFENDANTS.
THE FARMERS AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE ASSOCIATION, PLAINTIFF-COUNTERDEFENDANT,
v.
HELEN S. VANCE, AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF WILFRED E. VANCE, DECEASED, DEFENDANT-COUNTERDEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND LLOYD T. EYRE AND JANET F. LINDAUER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT LINDAUER, DEFENDANTS, AND COUNTRY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-COUNTERPLAINTIFF-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Ford County No. 97MR6 Honorable Stephen R. Pacey, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

In July 1998, plaintiff, The Farmers Automobile Insurance Association (Farmers), filed an amended complaint for declaratory judgment regarding (1) its duty, if any, to defend Wilfred E. Vance, the decedent of defendant Helen S. Vance, and Wilfred's son, Dennis Vance, in two tort suits, and (2) the duty of defendant Country Mutual Insurance Company (Country) to defend the Vances in those same two suits. In November 1998, Country filed a counterclaim for declaratory judgment regarding its duty of coverage. Defendants Lloyd T. Eyre (No. 97-L-6) and Janet F. Lindauer, who appears individually and as special administratrix of the estate of her husband, Robert Lindauer (No. 97-L-11), are the plaintiffs in the underlying litigation, which involves an automobile collision allegedly caused by Wilfred's negligence. At the time of the occurrence, Wilfred was driving Dennis' grain truck in conjunction with Dennis' farm operation; Farmers provided Wilfred with an automobile liability insurance policy (auto policy), and Country provided Dennis with a farm liability policy (farm policy).

In March 1999, the trial court granted summary judgment in Country's favor, concluding that an exclusion in the farm policy for claims arising out of the ownership or use of a motor vehicle (hereinafter motor vehicle exclusion) applied. Wilfred appeals (No. 4-99-0350), and Farmers appeals separately (No. 4-99-0340). Both argue that the court erred in entering summary judgment in Country's favor. We reverse and remand.

I. BACKGROUND

The allegations of the underlying tort actions are simple. In October 1996, Wilfred was operating Dennis' 1972 International Loadstar 1600 grain truck on a two-lane public highway, with a trailer full of grain in tow. Wilfred was stopped, waiting to turn off the highway to unload at a grain elevator. Lloyd was driving his car on the same highway and approached Wilfred from behind. Janet and Robert were in another car heading toward the intersection from the opposite direction on the same road. Because Dennis' grain truck and trailer were not properly lit or otherwise marked for safe operation on a public highway, Lloyd did not see them in time to stop, and he swerved into the Lindauers' lane, causing substantial injury to all involved except Wilfred.

In early 1997, Lloyd sued Wilfred and Dennis (No. 97-L-6), alleging negligence. Janet and Robert made similar allegations in a separate suit (No. 97-L-11). Wilfred and Dennis tendered their defenses to Farmers and Country.

In July 1997, Farmers filed its complaint for declaratory judgment, naming only Wilfred, Lloyd, and Janet as defendants. (The court later allowed Farmers to substitute Janet with Janet in both her individual capacity and as special administra-trix of Robert's estate. The record does not reflect when or how Robert died.) In July 1998, Farmers amended its complaint, added Country as a defendant, and claimed that the farm policy provided primary coverage for Lloyd and Janet's suits.

In November 1998, Country counterclaimed, claiming it had no duty to defend Dennis or Wilfred because the policy's motor vehicle exclusion applied. The first page of the farm policy Country issued to Dennis states the following:

"Everything about this policy has been designed with you, the policyholder, in mind--from its organization to the easy-to-understand language, and special section of defined words. Please observe that all words in boldface type throughout the policy have special insurance definitions." (Emphasis added.)

The motor vehicle exclusion provides, in relevant part, as follows:

"Coverages *** do not apply to bodily injury or property damage:

[A]rising from the ownership, maintenance, operation, use, loading or unloading of *** any motor vehicle *** which an insured owns, rents, or operates."

The policy defines the term "motor vehicle" as follows:

"Motor Vehicle means a motorized land vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer designed principally for travel on public roads. *** [T]he following are also considered motor vehicles when they ...


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