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Pactiv Corporation v. National Union Fire Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 3, 2015

PACTIV CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ELAINE E. BUCKLO, District Judge.

In this action, plaintiff Pactiv Corporation seeks declarations that it is an additional insured under the Retrospectively Rated Insurance and Indemnification Policy No GL XXX-XX-XX ("the Policy") that defendant issued to J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., and that the Policy requires defendant National Union Fire Insurance Company to defend and indemnify plaintiff with respect to a lawsuit brought against plaintiff by David and Cynthia Montgomery (the "Underlying Action").[1] Before me is defendant's motion for summary judgment, which I grant for the reasons that follow.[2]

I.

In the Underlying Action, David Montgomery and his wife Cynthia alleged that David was injured while attempting to open the rear doors of a J.B. Hunt trailer in the course of performing his duties as a "spotter" for Jewel Foods. As a spotter, David was responsible for transporting trailers loaded with grocery or other items to a warehouse dock, then opening the trailer's rear door so that the goods could be unloaded. Other workers-not spotters-were then responsible for unloading the trailer.

According to the complaint and David's testimony in the Underlying Action, on February 5, 2003, David was injured when the rear doors of a J.B. Hunt trailer "sprung open" as he attempted to open them after backing the trailer up to a warehouse dock at Jewel's Melrose Park facility. David explained that when he unlatched the trailer door, it came "flying out" at him. Def.'s L.R. 56.1 Stmt., Exh. B at 3; Exh. C at 63:18-64:8. After the door hit David and pushed him back, David struggled to close the door to avoid being buried by the product inside. David was ultimately able to secure the door closed, but he injured his shoulder and lower back in the process. Def.'s L.R. 56.1 Stmt., Exh. C at 67:8-68:17; 74:8-20. The complaint in the Underlying Action asserted that David's injury was "a direct and proximate result" of J.B. Hunt's negligence in failing to load the trailer properly, and/or in failing to equip the trailer with airbags or load bars to prevent loads from shifting during transport or falling out of the back of the trailer. Def.'s L.R. 56.1 Stmt., Exh. B at ΒΆ 8-9. The Underlying Action was settled in or around October of 2013.[3]

In February of 2014, plaintiff brought this action, captioned "Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Breach of Contract, " in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Defendant removed the case to this court on April 8, 2014. Notwithstanding its caption, the complaint's only count is for declaratory relief only, and, while certain allegations refer to a contract between plaintiff and non-party J.B. Hunt, the complaint does not allege the existence or breach of any contract between the parties.

The specific relief the complaint seeks is a declaration: a) that plaintiff is an additional insured under "the CGL coverage part of the Policy"; b) that defendant has a duty to defend plaintiff in the Underlying Action; c) that defendant has a duty to indemnify plaintiff in the Underlying Action; and d) that defendant is "obligated to reimburse" plaintiff "for all of their (sic) post-tender defense costs it incurred in its defense of" the Underlying Action.

The Policy provides two distinct types of coverage. The first, "Coverage A, " is captioned "Commercial Automobile Liability, " and covers, inter alia, "damages because of bodily injury'...caused by an accident'...resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered auto.'" Def.'s L.R. 56.1 Stmt., Exh. A at 2. The second, "Coverage B, " is captioned "Commercial General Liability, " and likewise covers "bodily injury, " but it excludes from coverage any liability for

"bodily injury' arising out of the ownership, maintenance, use or entrustment to others of any aircraft, auto' or watercraft owned or operated by or rented or loaned to any injured. Use includes operation and loading or unloading.'"

Def.'s L.R. 56.1 Stmt., Exh. A at 6 (the "Auto Exclusion"). Coverage B also contains a provision titled "Obligation to Defend" which reads: "We have no obligation to investigate or defend any claim or suit against you." Id. at 9.

Defendant's motion for summary judgment raises three arguments. First, defendant asserts that plaintiff does not qualify as an additional insured under Coverage A and cannot recover anything pursuant to that portion of the Policy. Second, defendant insists that the Underlying Complaint asserted claims falling squarely into the Auto Exclusion of Coverage B, so plaintiff likewise has no entitlement to coverage under that portion. Finally, defendant argues that pursuant to the Obligation to Defend provision of Coverage B, it had no duty in any event to defend plaintiff in the Underlying Action.

Plaintiff's response concedes the first and third arguments, leaving only the question of whether plaintiff is entitled, as an additional insured under Coverage B of the Policy, to indemnification for its settlement of the Underlying Action.

II.

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "The construction of an insurance policy and a determination of the rights and obligations thereunder are questions of law for the court which are appropriate subjects for disposition by way of summary judgment." Crum and Forster Managers Corp. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 620 N.E.2d 1073, 1077 (Ill. 1993). My "paramount objective" in construing the Policy is to effectuate the intent of the parties as expressed by the words used in the agreement. Oakley Transport, Inc. v. Zurich Ins. Co., 648 N.E.2d 1099, 1106 (Ill.App.Ct. 1995). I must give unambiguous words their plain and ordinary meaning, and construe the policy as a whole, taking into account "the type of insurance for which the parties have contracted, the risks undertaken and purchased, the subject matter that is insured and the purposes of the entire contract." Crum and Forster, 620 N.E.2d at ...


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