The Dramshop Act both allows jury trial and sets the maximum for a bar owner’s liability; and, when the Insurance Guaranty Fund assumed such an owner’s defense, its governing statute did not allow it to pay more than that and provided that dramshop plaintiffs’ other insurance recoveries be set off against that cap prior to jury trial.
Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fifth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Effingham County, the Hon. Kimberly G. Koester and the Hon. Michael P. Kiley, Judges, presiding.
Hugh C. Griffin, of Hall, Prangle & Schoonveld, LLC, of Chicago, and Jon R. Shelton, of Shelton & Madrid, LLC, of St. Louis, Missouri, for appellant.
Christopher A. Koester, of Taylor Law Offices, P.C., of Effingham, for appellees.
Cochran, Cherry, Givens, Smith & Montgomery, L.L.C., of Chicago (John K. Kennedy, of counsel), for amicus curiae Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.
Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 The sole issue in this appeal is whether, in a Dramshop Act case where a bar owner is defended by the Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund (the Fund), the reduction for "other insurance" recoveries under section 546(a) of the Illinois Insurance Code (hereinafter, the Guaranty Fund statute) (215 ILCS 5/546(a) (West 2012)) applies against the jury's verdict or against the bar owner's maximum statutory liability. The trial court decided that the issue was premature because the plaintiffs, Roy and Theresa Rogers, had not obtained a verdict against the defendant, Gani Imeri. But the trial court certified a question to the appellate court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308(a). Ill. S.Ct. R. 308(a) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). The appellate court held that the reduction should be applied against the jury's verdict. 2013 IL App (5th) 110546.
¶ 2 For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
¶ 3 BACKGROUND
¶ 4 In 2009, a vehicle driven by 18-year-old Roy Dean Rogers III and a vehicle driven by 60- year-old John Winterrowd were involved in a head-on collision on a rural highway in Effingham County. Winterrowd was intoxicated, and Rogers was not. Rogers died in the accident. His parents received $26, 550 from Winterrowd's automobile liability insurer and $80, 000 from their own automobile liability insurer—a total of $106, 550. They subsequently filed a six-count complaint under the Dramshop Act against Imeri, the owner of the bar where Winterrowd was drinking, seeking recovery for their son's personal injury and their loss of society.
¶ 5 At the time the accident occurred, Imeri maintained a dramshop liability policy with Constitutional Casualty Company. The policy provided a policy limit of $130, 338.51, the statutory cap under the Dramshop Act. See generally 235 ILCS 5/6-21(a) (West 2012). While this case was pending, Imeri's insurer was declared insolvent and liquidated, and the Fund assumed his defense.
¶ 6 Imeri filed a "motion for summary adjudication of the amount that liability must be reduced" under section 546(a). In that motion, Imeri sought a ruling that his maximum liability was $23, 788.51, which represented the difference between the statutory cap on dramshop liability and the other insurance proceeds. The Rogerses responded that the setoff for other insurance proceeds should come after the jury's verdict. The trial court denied Imeri's motion as premature, commenting that such a ruling would "invade the jury's role as finder of fact." ...