STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
KENT ELMORE and ARDITH SHELDON ELMORE, Defendants (Kent Elmore, Defendant-Appellant).
from the Circuit Court of Effingham County. No. 16-MR-137
Honorable Allan F. Lolie, Judge, presiding.
Attorneys for Appellant Christopher A. Koester, Kara J. Wade,
Taylor Law Offices, P.C.
Attorneys for Appellee Michael J. Bedesky, Martin K.
Morrissey, Reed, Armstrong, Mudge & Morrissey, P.C.
JUSTICE CATES delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justice Chapman concurred in the judgment and
opinion. Presiding Justice Overstreet dissented, with
HONORABLE JUDY L. CATES, J
1 Defendant Kent Elmore was severely inj ured while unloading
a grain truck which was owned by his father, Ardith Sheldon
Elmore (Sheldon), and insured by plaintiff, State Farm Mutual
Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm). Kent filed a claim
seeking damages for his injuries under Sheldon's State
Farm auto policy. State Farm then filed this action, seeking
a judgment declaring that the "mechanical device"
exclusion in the auto policy was applicable and barred
coverage for Kent's injuries. State Farm and Kent filed
cross-motions for summary judgment. The circuit court found
that the "mechanical device" exclusion was
unambiguous and enforceable, and entered a summary judgment
in favor of State Farm. Kent now appeals.
2 On appeal, Kent contends that the circuit court erred in
denying his motion for summary judgment and granting State
Farm's motion for summary judgment because the
"mechanical device" exclusion in the State Farm
auto policy was ambiguous and contrary to the purpose of the
mandatory motor vehicle liability laws of Illinois. For
reasons that follow, we reverse the order of the circuit
court entering a summary judgment for State Farm and denying
Kent's motion for summary judgment. Pursuant to Illinois
Supreme Court Rule 366(a)(5) (eff. Feb. 1, 1994), we enter a
summary judgment in favor of defendant, Kent Elmore.
3 I. BACKGROUND
4 On October 16, 2013, Kent was helping his father, Sheldon,
harvest corn from one of Sheldon's fields. At one point
during the day, Kent was helping transfer a load of corn from
Sheldon's grain truck into a transport truck. A grain
auger with a hopper attached at its lower end was being used
to collect and move the corn from the grain truck into the
transport truck. Kent backed the grain truck up to the auger
so that the auger's hopper abutted the rear of the truck.
The auger's hopper was located directly beneath the grain
truck's dumping shoot. As the corn was being emptied from
the dumping shoot into the hopper, the rotating auger blades
would draw corn from the hopper and carry it up toward the
top of the auger, eventually depositing it into the transport
truck. The auger was powered by a tractor equipped with a
"power take off (PTO) shaft. After Kent aligned the
hopper under the dumping shoot, Kent grabbed two levers
located on the back gate of the grain truck in order to open
it and release the corn out of the truck and into the hopper.
Kent wanted extra leverage to open the truck's back gate,
so he stepped up onto the auger. The protective shield
covering the auger's moving parts had been removed. As
Kent stepped up onto the auger, his right foot became
entangled in the turning auger blades. Kent suffered a
traumatic amputation of his right leg above the knee.
5 Sheldon had furnished the grain truck and the auger-hopper
equipment that Kent was using at the time he was injured. The
grain truck, a 2002 Ford International 4900, was owned by
Sheldon and insured under an auto policy issued by State
Farm. Sheldon was a named insured on the policy.
6 On March 31, 2016, Kent filed a negligence action against
Sheldon seeking to recover for his injuries under
Sheldon's auto policy. On November 1, 2016, State Farm
filed this declaratory judgment action asking the court to
determine the rights and liabilities of the parties under the
terms and provisions of the auto policy. In the original
complaint for declaratory judgment, State Farm asserted that
there was no coverage under the auto policy because
Kent's injury was caused by an auger, and the auger was
neither a car nor a trailer, and was thus not an insured
vehicle within the meaning of the auto policy. On January 6,
2017, State Farm filed an amended complaint adding an
allegation that the auger was a mechanical device and was
thereby excluded from coverage under the "mechanical
device" exclusion ("Endorsement 6018GG.1.") in
the policy. A certified copy of the State Farm policy in
effect at the time of the occurrence was attached to the
complaint for declaratory judgment.
7 The Declarations Page of the State Farm policy identified
the insured vehicle as a 2002 International Model 4900 truck
to be used in farming operations. The Declarations Page also
showed that the bodily injury liability limits were $250, 000
per person and $500, 000 per accident. The following policy
documents were attached to the Declarations Page: "State
Farm® Car Policy Booklet"; two
endorsements identified as "6018GG. COMMERCIAL
VEHICLE" and "6018GG.1 COMMERCIAL
VEHICLE"; an endorsement identified as
"6913B AMENDATORY ENDORSEMENT";
and a one-page document entitled "6055ZZ FARM
TRUCK (Coverage While Towing Trailers and Farm
8 The liability section of the State Farm® Car
Policy Booklet provided in pertinent part:
1. you and resident relatives for:
a. the ownership, maintenance, or use of:
(1) your car;
3. any other person for his or her ...