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Nelson v. Country Mutual Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

October 9, 2014

FOREST LEE NELSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
COUNTRY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee

As Corrected.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 1-13-1036. The Honorable Stuart Palmer, Judge, presiding.

SYLLABUS

In an action arising from a vehicular collision where plaintiff settled with the insurer of the other party and then proceeded with an underinsured motorist claim under the policy issued by the insurer of the company van he was driving and obtained an arbitration award for $850,000, the trial court's vacation of the arbitration award and entry of summary judgment to his employer's insurer setting the matter for a trial de novo was affirmed by the appellate court, despite the absence of explicit language in the policy allowing a trial de novo as a remedy following the rejection of an arbitration award, since the Illinois Supreme Court has held that such a remedy is inherent and is proper following the rejection of an arbitration award in excess of the limits dictated by the policy and by statute.

Michael S. Cetina, Walsh Knippen Pollock & Cetina, Chtrd., Wheaton, for appellant.

Keith G. Carlson, Carlson Law Offices, Chicago, for appellee.

PRESIDING JUSTICE FITZGERALD SMITH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Howse and Taylor concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

FITZGERALD SMITH, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

Page 1267

[¶1] Following a bench trial, judgment was entered in favor of defendant-appellee Country Mutual Insurance Company (Country Mutual) and against plaintiff-appellant Forest Lee Nelson (Nelson).[1] Nelson appeals, attacking not this final judgment but, rather, a prior order entered by the trial court vacating an arbitration award, granting summary judgment in favor of Country Mutual and allowing trial in the first place. He contends that the underinsured

Page 1268

endorsement provision to the insurance policy at issue did not provide the option for a trial to take place, and that the provision, which was the basis for the arbitration award's rejection, was ambiguous. He asks that we reverse the judgment of the trial court, that we reinstate the arbitration award, and that we remand the cause for determination of the proper setoffs to the award. For the following reasons, we affirm.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] On August 31, 1999, Nelson, while driving a company van in the employ of Turbo Tubs of Chicago, was in a car accident. The other driver involved was insured by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and, pursuant to the $100,000 underinsured motorist liability limit within that policy, Nelson collected $90,000.

[¶4] Nelson's employer, meanwhile, was insured by Country Mutual with an underinsured motorist liability limit of $1 million. Nelson proceeded with an underinsured motorist claim against Country Mutual, and Country Mutual filed an action for setoffs. Relevant to the instant appeal, the arbitration clause ...


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