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First Chicago Insurance Co. v. My Personal Taxi and Livery, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

October 11, 2019

FIRST CHICAGO INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MY PERSONAL TAXI AND LIVERY, INC.; RONALD DIXON; and JUAN RANGEL, Defendants Ronald Dixon, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 17 CH 7778 Honorable Celia Gamrath, Judge Presiding.

          James P. Costello, Ronald J. Dixon, and Michael E. Crane, of Costello, McMahon, Burke & Murphy, Ltd., of Chicago, for appellant.

          Cynthia Ramirez, of Leahy, Eisenberg & Fraenkel, Ltd., of Chicago, for appellee.

          JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Mikva and Justice Connors concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HARRIS JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 This case concerns a declaratory judgment action by plaintiff-appellee First Chicago Insurance Company (First Chicago) against defendant-appellant Ronald Dixon and defendants My Personal Taxi and Livery Service, Inc. (Livery Service), and Juan Rangel. First Chicago sought declarations that (1) First Chicago's insurance coverage of Livery Service did not encompass injuries to Livery Service passenger Dixon allegedly caused by the negligence of Rangel, Livery Service's agent, in assisting or escorting Dixon to a hospital entrance so that (2) First Chicago had no duty to defend Livery Service or Rangel regarding Dixon's claims. Upon cross-motions for summary judgment by First Chicago and Dixon, the court granted summary judgment for First Chicago. Dixon appeals, contending that the court erred in denying him summary judgment and granting summary judgment for First Chicago. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the judgment of the circuit court and enter judgment in favor of Dixon upon his summary judgment motion.

         ¶ 2 I. JURISDICTION

         ¶ 3 Upon cross-motions by First Chicago and Dixon, having entered defaults against Livery Service and Rangel, the court granted summary judgment for First Chicago on January 4, 2019. Dixon filed his notice of appeal on January 22, 2019. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to article VI, section 6, of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 6) and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 301 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994) and Rule 303 (eff. July 1, 2017).

         ¶ 4 II. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 Dixon brought a personal injury action (lawsuit) against Livery Service, circuit court No. 16-L-66042, in June 2016 and later amended it to add Rangel as a defendant. Dixon alleged that Livery Service provided nonemergency medical transportation to the public, including disabled persons. Livery Service, through its agent Rangel, transported Dixon, who is legally blind, from his home to a medical appointment at a Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) hospital on February 9, 2016. As Rangel escorted or assisted Dixon to the hospital entrance, Rangel allegedly caused Dixon to walk into a cement pillar. Dixon alleged that Livery Service and Rangel owed him a duty of ordinary care in transporting and escorting him and then breached that duty so that Dixon was injured as a proximate result.

         ¶ 6 First Chicago brought its declaratory judgment action (declaratory action) against Dixon, Livery Service, and Rangel in June 2017 and amended it thereafter. Livery Service had a business automobile insurance policy (policy) from First Chicago in effect on February 9, 2016, and a copy of the policy was attached to the complaint. First Chicago noted that Dixon's lawsuit alleged that he was injured by an agent of Livery Service who was assisting or escorting him to a hospital entrance while transporting Dixon to a medical appointment. First Chicago argued that Dixon's alleged injuries were not caused by an accident "resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered 'auto'" as provided in the policy. First Chicago thus sought a judgment that it was not obligated to defend Livery Service or Rangel regarding Dixon's claims against Livery Service and Rangel.

         ¶ 7 Dixon appeared and answered in the declaratory action. Dixon admitted that Livery Service had the policy from First Chicago and that Dixon made the relevant allegations in his lawsuit. Dixon denied that his alleged injuries were not caused by an accident "resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered 'auto'" as provided in the policy and denied that First Chicago had no duty to defend Livery Service and Rangel.

         ¶ 8 With Livery Service and Rangel having been served with summons but not having appeared and First Chicago having filed motions for default against Livery Service and Rangel, the court found Livery Service and Rangel in default in the declaratory action in June 2018.

         ¶ 9 First Chicago filed its summary judgment motion in July 2018. First Chicago did not dispute that Rangel drove Dixon to a medical appointment on February 9, 2016, in a vehicle owned by Livery Service and leased to Rangel. Attached to the motion in support of the aforesaid were the depositions of Dixon and Livery Service co-owner Deidre Pinnick. First Chicago did not dispute that Dixon was blind and that Rangel escorted him to the hospital entrance, and First Chicago noted Dixon's deposition testimony that Rangel "slung" Dixon into a pole while escorting him. First Chicago argued that the policy covered injuries "resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered auto" but the insured vehicle was not being operated at the time of the alleged injury, nor was either Dixon or Rangel inside the vehicle at that time. First Chicago argued that various cases interpreting similar insurance policy language required a causal relationship between the injury and ownership, maintenance, or use of the vehicle for the policy to cover the injury. It argued that Dixon's alleged injury by Rangel did not arise during use of the Livery Service vehicle because Rangel "had already transported Mr. Dixon to his destination and Mr. Dixon had already exited the taxicab before the alleged injury occurred." In other words, the relationship between Dixon's alleged injury and use of the insured vehicle was "merely incidental" and ...


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