Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, August 23, 2019

Appeals court upholds liability coverage verdict stemming from 2010 fatal car accident

By John Severance | May 26, 2017

MT. VERNON — The Fifth District Appellate Court upheld a trial court verdict determining whether there was liability coverage for a car accident involving two Illinois men.

The decision, which was delivered on April 3, involves Austin Holmes and the alleged negligent driver, Ryan Anderson, and whether Anderson was covered under a commercial auto policy issued to Anderson Truss Company. The plaintiff in the case was Leisa Holmes, a special representative for Austin, who died in 2014. The defendant in the case was Addison Insurance Company.

Following a hearing, the trial court determined that Anderson was not an insured under the policy.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for the defendant because the insurance policy extended coverage to Anderson as the driver of a covered, non-owned vehicle.

The appeals court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.

In its opinion, the appeals court wrote: "To qualify for liability coverage under the defendant's commercial auto policy, the truck involved in the collision must have been a non-owned auto under Symbol 9, and the truck must have been operated by 'an insured' under Section II. Despite the ambiguity raised by the term "personal affairs," the evidence failed to show that Ryan qualified as an 'insured' under either Section II, or the endorsement.

"Since Ryan was not an 'insured' within the meaning of the policy, there was no liability coverage for his alleged negligence on the day of the collision under the commercial auto policy issued by the defendant. Therefore, the trial court properly entered a summary judgment in favor of the defendant.’’

The case revolves around an accident on Jan. 10, 2010, between Holmes and Anderson. Holmes, in a 1998 Honda Civic, was driving eastbound on Galatia Post Road and was approaching the "T" intersection at Welborn Lane.

Anderson, meanwhile, was driving a 1997 Dodge Ram pickup truck westbound on Galatia Post Road, approaching Welborn Lane.

"Two other westbound vehicles were stopped at the 'T' intersection, just ahead of Ryan, waiting to turn left onto Welborn Lane," the complaint said. "As Ryan neared the intersection, his truck began to slide on the slushy, wet pavement. Ryan was able to steer out of the slide, but almost immediately after he corrected his course, the truck began sliding again. The passenger side of the truck struck the rear of the second vehicle at the intersection. The truck ricocheted into the eastbound lane of Galatia Post Road, where it collided with Austin's vehicle.’’

Holmes suffered orthopedic and brain injuries from the collision, and four years later, he took his own life, the filing states.

At the time, Anderson lived with his parents and was employed by Brown's Fertilizer Company. He was driving home from church when the accident happened.

According to the decision, Anderson was not transporting products or working for anyone at that particular time.

The truck was owned by Anderson’s parents and was covered by State Farm. The truck was used in work by Anderson Truss, which is a corporation engaged in the business of crafting custom roof trusses and delivering them to its customers.  

At issue was the commercial auto policy purchased by Anderson Truss from Addison Insurance Company.

According to the policy, Anderson Truss was the only named insured, and the point of contention was whether Anderson was insured by the business's policy.

According to the lawsuit, Anderson was not named as insured under the policy and he was not a permissive user of a vehicle that Anderson Truss owned.

The appellate court held, "Ryan did not qualify as an insured since he was not an employee of Anderson Truss at the time of the accident. We note that the plaintiff neither alleged in the complaint, nor presented facts to show, that Ryan was an employee of Anderson Truss on the date of the accident.’’

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Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court