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Johnson Press of America, Inc. v. Norethern Insurance Company of New York

June 13, 2003

JOHNSON PRESS OF AMERICA, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NORTHERN INSURANCE COMPANY OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Honorable Lee Preston, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn

UNPUBLISHED

Following a hearing, the trial court granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of Northern Insurance Company of New York finding that the collapse of the roof of Johnson Press of America, Inc.'s warehouse was not covered by the insured's insurance policy. This appeal followed.

On appeal, Johnson Press of America, Inc., argues that: (1) the trial court erred in granting the summary judgment motion in favor of the defendant; (2) the trial court should have construed an ambiguous insurance policy provision against the drafter and found for the insured; and (3) the trial court erred in finding that defendant did not violate the "bad faith clause" in section 155 of the Illinois Insurance Code. 215 ILCS 5/155 (West 1998). For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's summary judgment order.

BACKGROUND

Johnson Press of America, Inc. (plaintiff), purchased a property insurance policy (policy) from Northern Insurance Company of New York (defendant), providing insurance coverage for two business locations. This policy covered the period from June 5, 1997, to June, 5, 1998. The policy covered one location at 800 North Court Street and another location at 1305-09 North Main Street in Pontiac, Illinois. The Court Street facility was where plaintiff conducted its day-to-day printing operation and was insured for $2,500,000. The Main Street location was used as a warehouse and was insured for $170,000.

The Main Street location consisted of two warehouses adjacent to each other. One building was a one-floor prefabricated steel warehouse built during the 1950s. Adjacent to the steel warehouse was a two-story brick building built during the early 1900s. The two buildings shared a common masonry wall, which had been part of the older brick building. This brick building had been vacant and was not part of plaintiff's daily business operation.

On June 1, 1998, at around 5:30 p.m., without any interference from natural forces, portions of the roof, the second floor, and the first floor of the old brick building collapsed into the basement. This collapse rendered the masonry walls unstable. Consequently, the City of Pontiac ordered that the warehouse be razed. On June 3, 1998, the plaintiff filed a claim for the damages caused by the roof's collapse.

On June 3, 1998, defendant retained an independent claims adjuster, L.W. Rogers & Company (Rogers), to review plaintiff's insurance claim. On the same day the assignment was received, Rogers sent its general adjustor, R.F. Ramsey (Ramsey), to view the damaged building. At the site, Ramsey was met by Glen Rustman (Rustman), an employee of the plaintiff. After surveying the site, Ramsey filed a report.

Separately, the defendant also retained Stuart K. Jacobson and Associates, Ltd. (Jacobson), an architectural and structural engineering firm, to assist in assessing plaintiff's insurance claim. On June 5, 1998, Jacobson sent James Senffner (Senffner) to inspect the collapsed building. After an on-site survey, Senffner filed a report.

Based upon Senffner's report, defendant denied plaintiff's insurance claim reasoning that the cause(s) of the roof's collapse fell under the exclusion clauses of the policy.

Plaintiff retained an engineering firm, Shefee Lulkin & Assoc., Inc., to review the Senffner report. Lulkin filed a report.

THE INSURANCE POLICY

The insurance policy covered the building, fixtures, machinery, equipment, and personal property against loss caused by certain accidental fortuitous events. Under the "Exclusions" section, it enumerated conditions that the insurer would not cover in the event the building collapsed. The "Exclusions," in pertinent part, read:

EXCLUSIONS

1. * * *

2. We will not pay for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any of the following:

a. * * *

b. * * *

c. * * *

(1) Wear and tear;

(2) Rust, corrosion, fungus, decay, deterioration, hidden or latent defect or any quality in property that caused it to damage or destroy itself.

f.Continuous or repeated seepage or leakage of water that occurs over a period of 14 days.

3. We will not pay for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any of the following* * *

c. Faulty, inadequate or defective:

Maintenance, * * * of part or all of any property on or off the ...


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