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Hastings Mutual Insurance Co. v. Blinderman Construction Company, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

October 24, 2017

HASTINGS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BLINDERMAN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC., and THE ESTATE OF ROBERT WOODS by Cynthia Sosnowski of the Estate and Person of Robert Woods, (BLINDERMAN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC., Defendant-Appellant.)

         Appeal from the Circuit Court Of Cook County. No. 14 CH 19115 The Honorable Franklin U. Valderrama, Judge Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE NEVILLE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hyman and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          NEVILLE, PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 This case raises the question of whether a subcontractor's insurer has a duty to defend the general contractor, an additional insured under its policy, in a lawsuit brought by an injured employee of the subcontractor. In the underlying lawsuit, the Estate of Robert Woods, the injured employee of the subcontractor, JM Polcurr, Inc., sued the general contractor, Blinderman Construction Company, Inc., for negligence. The complaint included no allegations about the acts of Polcurr. Polcurr's insurer, Hastings Mutual Insurance Company, filed a separate lawsuit for a judgment declaring that it had no duty to defend Blinderman in the underlying lawsuit. The circuit court granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of Hastings on its complaint.

         ¶ 2 In this appeal, we hold that the absence of allegations about Polcurr in the underlying complaint does not suffice to meet Hastings's burden of proving that the injury occurred through no fault of Polcurr. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 The Public Building Commission of Chicago hired Blinderman to serve as general contractor for a construction project at Sauganash Elementary School. On June 22, 2010, Blinderman hired Polcurr to do the electrical work for the project. Blinderman's contract with Polcurr required Polcurr to purchase insurance naming Blinderman as an additional insured for Polcurr's work on the project. Polcurr purchased the required insurance from Hastings.

         ¶ 5 On July 19, 2011, Robert Woods suffered a severe injury at work on the project. He regained consciousness in the hospital about one month later. He has not worked since the accident. A court appointed Woods's daughter, Cynthia Sosnowski, to serve as plenary guardian for Woods and Woods's estate.

         ¶ 6 The Underlying Lawsuit: Estate of Woods v. Blinderman

         ¶ 7 In February 2014, the Estate of Woods filed a complaint against Blinderman, alleging that Woods fell from a ladder while working at Sauganash for Polcurr. The estate alleged that Blinderman

"a. Failed to provide a safe and suitable support and platform for the work;
b. Failed to properly supervise, coordinate, inspect, manage, control and schedule the work;
c. Failed to provide a safe place of work; and d. Failed to warn of the dangerous condition then and there existing, when Defendants knew, or should have known, that warning was necessary to avoid injury to Plaintiff."

         ¶ 8 Blinderman tendered defense of the lawsuit to Hastings. Hastings rejected the tender, citing, as a basis for the ...


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