United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
August 8, 2000
SPEARMAN INDUSTRIES, INCORPORATED, PLAINTIFF,
ST. PAUL FIRE AND MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alesia, District Judge.
A. Motion for judgment on the pleadings
Before the court is defendant St. Paul Fire and Marine
Insurance Company's ("St.Paul") motion for judgment on the
pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). The
court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1332. For the following reasons, the court denies St. Paul's
motion for judgment on the pleadings.
A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c)
is subject to the same standard as a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). See Hentosh
v. Herman M. Finch Univ. of Health Sciences/The Chicago Med.
Sch., 167 F.3d 1170, 1173 & n. 3 (7th Cir. 1999). Thus, the
court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint
as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. Midwest Grinding Co. v. Spitz, 976 F.2d 1016, 1019
(7th Cir. 1992).
In this case, Spearman Industries, Incorporated ("Spearman")
alleges that St. Paul has failed to provide coverage under an
insurance policy which provides, among other things, property
protection for damage to Spearman's roof. St. Paul, however,
alleges that, pursuant to the terms of the insurance policy, the
parties must first submit the claim to an appraiser. Accordingly,
this is a matter of contract interpretation.
In Illinois, the court is to interpret the contract as a whole,
"in a way that gives effect to all terms, in the light of their
ordinary meaning." LaSalle Nat'l Trust, N.A. v. ECM Motor Co.,
76 F.3d 140, 144 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing In re Hallas,
104 Ill.2d 83, 83 Ill.Dec. 540, 470 N.E.2d 960, 965 (1984)). When the
terms of the contract are clear, the court must give the terms
their ordinary meaning. Id. at 144-45. However, if the contract
is ambiguous, "the contract's meaning is a question for the trier
of fact." ECHO, Inc. v. Whitson Co., 52 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir.
1995); see LaSalle, 76 F.3d at 145. Ambiguity exists if the
language of the contract is "`reasonably and fairly susceptible
to more than one meaning.'" ECHO, 52 F.3d at 705 (citing
Metalex Corp. v. Uniden, 863 F.2d 1331, 1333 (7th Cir. 1988)).
Applying these principles to this case, the court finds that
the terms relating to the general rules of the contract are
unambiguous. Furthermore, neither party alleges any ambiguity in
these terms. Accordingly, this court will give these contract
terms their ordinary meaning. The contract clearly states:
If your policy includes property insurance and
agreement can't be reached on the amount of property
loss or the value of the property, the following
procedure will be used:
1. One of us will make a written demand for an
2. Each will select a competent and impartial
appraiser and notify the other of the selection
within 30 days of the demand.
3. The appraisers will select a competent and
impartial umpire. If they can't agree on an umpire,
either may ask that one be selected by a judge of a
court having jurisdiction.
4. The appraiser will state separately the amount
of the loss and the value of the property. If they
don't agree, they'll submit their appraisals to the
umpire. Agreement of two out of three will be
binding. . . .
No one can sue us to recover under this policy
unless all of its terms have been lived up to.
(Def.'s Answer Ex. A at 2-3.) On July 1, 1999, St. Paul sent a
letter to Spearman's attorney demanding an appraisal. (Pl.'s
Compl. Ex. G.) However, Spearman declined to submit to the
appraisal process contending, that because St. Paul claimed the
damage to be from wear and tear, and thus, not covered by the
policy, the dispute was over the causation of the damage and not
the amount of property loss or the value of the property. (Id.
Ex. H.) The court agrees with Spearman's contention that (1) the
parties are disputing the cause of the damage and not the value
of the damage and (2) the policy does not require an appraisal on
the matter of causation. Thus, because causation is a matter for
the courts — not an appraiser — to decide, the court denies St.
Paul's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule
B. Motion to strike
Also before the court is St. Paul's motion to strike portions
of paragraph 25 in Count II of Spearman's Amended Complaint. St.
Paul brings this motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(f). Under Rule 12(f) "the court may order stricken
from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant,
immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." FED. R. CIV. P.
12(f). Generally, motions to strike are disfavored and usually
denied. Tatum v. Davis, No. 95 C 1341, 1996 WL 388405, at *1
(N.D.Ill. July 9, 1996). The court, however, may grant the motion
if the moving party demonstrates that "the allegations being
challenged are so unrelated to plaintiff's claim as to be void of
merit and unworthy of any consideration and that the allegations
are unduly prejudicial." Trustmark Life Ins. Co. v. University
of Chicago Hosps., No. 94 C 4692,
1996 WL 68009, at *1 (N.D.Ill. Feb.14, 1996).
St. Paul does not assert that the allegations in the amended
complaint contain "any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or
scandalous matter." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(f). Therefore, the court
will treat the motion as a motion to dismiss those portions of
paragraph 25 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). As stated previously, when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion, the court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the
amended complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of the plaintiff. Midwest Grinding Co. 976 F.2d at 1019.
St. Paul argues that subparagraphs (a), (b), (d), (e), (i), and
(n) of paragraph 25 should be dismissed because they consist of
bare legal conclusions. Of course these subparagraphs consist of
bare legal conclusion as the subparagraphs are quoted sections of
an Illinois statute which form the basis for Count II. As it
stands, St. Paul is not asking the court to dismiss a cause of
action; St. Paul is merely asking the court to strike certain
subparagraphs. Accordingly, the court denies St. Paul's motion to
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