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Menard, Inc. v. Country Preferred Insurance Company

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

July 18, 2013

MENARD, INC., a Foreign Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
COUNTRY PREFERRED INSURANCE COMPANY, and RUBY L. BOHLEN, an Individual, Defendants-Appellants.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois, Appeal No. 3-12-0340 Circuit No. 10-MR-1141 The Honorable Barbara Petrungaro, Judge, Presiding.

Justices Carter and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

McDADE, JUSTICE

¶ 1 This case is an insurance coverage dispute between Country Preferred Insurance Company and Menard, Inc. (Menard), which operates a chain of retail hardware stores doing business as Menards (Menards). The dispute arose after a personal injury plaintiff, Ruby Bohlen, fell and injured herself on the premises of a Menards store while a Menards employee was loading bricks into her car. Menard sought coverage as an insured under Bohlen's personal automobile insurance policy with Country Preferred. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the trial court's determination that Menard is covered as an insured under the policy and that Country Preferred has a corresponding duty to defend Menard in the underlying personal injury lawsuit.

¶ 2 FACTS

¶ 3 I. Accident and Underlying Lawsuit

¶ 4 On July 1, 2009, Ruby Bohlen drove to a Menards store in Champaign, Illinois, to buy bricks. She picked out bricks from a stack and a Menards employee loaded the bricks into her vehicle. At some point during the loading process, Bohlen allegedly tripped and fell over some debris or packing material on the ground near her vehicle.

¶ 5 On May 6, 2010, Bohlen filed a premises liability suit against Menard in the circuit court of Champaign County. In her complaint, Bohlen alleged that she purchased gravel and 40 bricks from the Menards store in Champaign, and that she backed her car up to the stacks of bricks for a Menards employee to load bricks into her car. Bohlen alleged that she looked for good bricks from the stack, then placed them within reach of the Menards employee to load into her vehicle. While the Menards employee was loading her car with the bricks, Bohlen alleged, her foot became tangled in debris or packing materials near her vehicle and she fell, sustaining multiple injuries.

¶ 6 Bohlen's complaint alleged that Menard was negligent by breaching its duty to maintain safe premises for its customers. Specifically, Bohlen alleged that Menard caused the aisles, sidewalks, parking lots, entrances, and exits at the store to accumulate debris and packing material, and that Menard failed to properly remove these materials or maintain the areas in a safe condition. According to Bohlen, Menard's negligence in maintaining safe premises caused her to fall and injure herself.

¶ 7 II. Country Preferred Insurance Policy

¶ 8 At the time of the accident, Bohlen maintained an automobile insurance policy on her car through Country Preferred Insurance Company. In this policy, Country Preferred agreed to indemnify an "insured" when the insured must pay for property damage or bodily injuries sustained by any person. Country Preferred also agreed to defend against any claims or lawsuits alleging bodily injury and property damage covered by the policy. The policy further details what is covered:

"The bodily injury or property damages must be caused by an accident resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of an insured vehicle, including loading and unloading or of any nonowned vehicle."

The policy defines an "insured vehicle" as the vehicle listed on the declarations page, which is Bohlen's automobile. The policy defines an "insured" as "anyone using an insured vehicle with your permission or the permission of an adult relative."

ΒΆ 9 The policy also contains provisions for determining the payment when other insurance is also applicable to the loss. In a section titled "Other ...


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