In an action arising from a dispute over the insurance coverage for the injuries defendant suffered when she tripped and fell while helping an employee of plaintiff building supply store load brick into defendant’s car, the trial court properly determined that the store was covered as an insured under the provision of defendant’s automobile liability policy stating that it covered injuries caused by the use of the insured vehicle in “loading or unloading, ” and had a duty to defend the store in plaintiff’s personal injury action, since the store’s employee was using the insured vehicle in the loading process, the injury occurred during the loading and was causally connected to the loading, and potentially, the fall and resulting injuries could have been caused by the store’s negligence in allowing debris to remain in the area where defendant fell.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County, No. 10-MR-1141; the Hon. Barbara Petrungaro, Judge, presiding.
Keith G. Carlson (argued), of Carlson Law Offices, of Chicago, for appellants.
W. Anthony Andrews (argued) and Ericka J. Thomas, both of Ottosen Britz Kelly Cooper Gilbert & Dinolfo, Ltd., of Naperville, for appellee.
Justices Carter and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 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. ...