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United Automobile Insurance Company v. Sidney Wilson and Woodrow Wilson

January 18, 2011

UNITED AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SIDNEY WILSON AND WOODROW WILSON, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 07 CH 14380 Honorable Daniel A. Riley,Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Connors

JUSTICE CONNORS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice Cunningham and Justice Karnezis concur in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

This appeal arises from plaintiff United Automobile Insurance Company's attempt to vacate an arbitration award that was entered in favor of defendants Sidney Wilson and Woodrow Wilson. The circuit court granted defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to section 2-619(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a) (West 2008)). We affirm.

BACKGROUND

Defendants were involved in a hit-and-run car accident on February 2, 2004, and they subsequently filed a claim under the uninsured motorist provision of their auto insurance policy, which had been issued by plaintiff. However, the vehicle was later stolen before plaintiff could inspect it for purposes of evaluating the claim. Although the vehicle was later recovered, it was junked prior to being inspected.

On January 27, 2005, plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action in the circuit court of Cook County, which asked the circuit court to find that defendants' claim was not covered under the policy and that the policy was void due to defendants' alleged spoliation of evidence. However, the insurance No. 1-09-3061 policy contained an arbitration provision, as required by section 143a(1) of the Illinois Insurance Code (215 ILCS 5/143a(1) (West 2002)). Plaintiff moved to stay arbitration pending resolution of the declaratory judgment action. The circuit court denied plaintiff's motion to stay and ordered that the parties proceed to arbitration on all issues, notably including the issue of coverage.

Plaintiff appealed the trial court's order declining to stay arbitration, and we reversed. See United Automobile Insurance Co. v. Wilson, No. 1-05-0372 (Mar. 16, 2005) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We found that the circuit court had erred by ordering the parties into arbitration before deciding whether the policy covered the 2004 accident. We noted that this issue is controlled by State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Yapejian, 152 Ill. 2d 533 (1992), which held that arbitration under section 143a(1) is limited to only "disputes concerning covered claims, once coverage was established." Id. at 541. Under Yapejian, whether or not coverage exists is an issue for the circuit court to determine. Once the circuit court finds that a particular claim is covered, section 143a(1) mandates that any disputes over that claim be arbitrated. We consequently reversed and remanded "with instructions to stay arbitration pending resolution of the coverage issues by the trial court." United Automobile Insurance Co., slip op. at 4.

Plaintiff did not move for a stay of the arbitration during the appeal, and while the appeal was pending the arbitration had commenced. The arbitrator heard evidence on all issues, including coverage, but the arbitrator had not issued a ruling by the time we resolved the appeal. After receiving our mandate, the circuit court stayed arbitration and proceeded to a bench trial on the coverage issue.

On February 1, 2007, the circuit court issued a written memorandum opinion and order. The circuit court found that no spoliation of evidence had occurred and that the uninsured motorist provision of the insurance policy covered the 2004 accident. Having found that coverage existed, the circuit court compelled arbitration on the remaining disputes. Plaintiff appealed the circuit court's ruling, and we affirmed. See United Automobile Insurance Co. v. Wilson, No. 1-07-0424 (Sept. 4, 2007) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

However, plaintiff again did not obtain a stay of arbitration pending appeal, so arbitration resumed after trial. On May 24, 2007, the arbitrator issued an award in favor of defendants in the amount of $11,000 to Woodrow Wilson and $9,000 to Sidney Wilson. Six days later, on May 30, 2007, plaintiff filed the instant declaratory judgment action in the circuit court of Cook County seeking to vacate the arbitration award. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, which was granted on October 13, 2009. The circuit court subsequently confirmed the arbitration award and entered judgment in favor of defendants on October 29, 2009. Plaintiff timely appealed, and this case is now before us for the third time.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff's brief on appeal leaves a great deal to be desired in terms of clarity of argument and legal support. Despite the brief's convoluted drafting and sparse legal citation, we perceive that plaintiff's primary argument is that the arbitration award is void because ...


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