Attorneys Aaron LaRue and Emma Nowacki obtained summary judgment in favor of a county in a lawsuit that involved a motor vehicle accident in a construction zone. The codefendant driver, who settled out for his policy limits, claimed he was “confused” while traveling southbound in the designated northbound lane, leading to a head-on collision with the plaintiffs’ northbound vehicle. The plaintiffs sued the county and construction contractors for negligently routing traffic through the construction zone. The evidence showed that the county owned the road, designed the construction zone configuration, and was present every day during the construction to “supervise” the work. The testimony also showed that the traffic configuration was designed in accordance with all applicable requirements and standards, and set up and maintained in accordance with all applicable plans and specifications. P&W moved for summary judgment based on the Tort Immunity Act, arguing that section 3-104 provided immunity for alleged failures to erect traffic warning signs and that section 3-108 provided immunity for the county’s supervisory role on the project. After oral argument, the Cook County court granted P&W’s motion based on tort immunity, as well as the defendants’ joint motion arguing under Hunt v. Blasius that the project had complied with all applicable standards and specifications.
Brad Purcell and Emma Nowacki obtained a dismissal in a negligence and products liability suit based on the statute of limitations. The plaintiff filed a complaint against multiple defendants after the decedent was run over by a Jeep Grand Cherokee that suddenly reversed and ran over him after he had placed the vehicle in park. Plaintiff alleged that the transmission and/or gear shift were defective. P&W’s client was a car mechanic that had replaced the transmission of the Jeep 7 years before the fatal accident. After the plaintiff learned in discovery that the transmission had been replaced, the plaintiff brought suit against P&W’s client 8 months after the statute of limitations had expired. The plaintiff maintained that the two-year statute of limitations for his suit against the mechanic related back to the timely complaint. P&W argued that the relation-back doctrine was inapplicable because plaintiff made no “mistake,” and P&W’s client had no knowledge of the lawsuit within the statute of limitations. The Cook County court agreed and dismissed the untimely complaint against P&W’s client with prejudice.
R.J. VanSwol obtained the affirmance of summary judgment on the issue of whether a property owner could deselect its own policy in an underlying slip-and-fall case and seek coverage under a policy issued to the contractor that had agreed to clear snow and ice from the property. The contractor’s insurer argued that the claims against the property owner did not come within the scope of coverage, but the trial court found that the insurer had to defend under its additional-insured endorsement, and the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed. P&W therefore successfully shifted the risk away from the property owner’s policy. Pekin Ins. Co. v. AP POB Bannockburn, LLC, 2017 IL App (1st) 163159-U.
Tom Underwood and Mike Sanders successfully defeated an appeal from the dismissal of the claims against their client, an attorney, in a suit alleging that he and another attorney had caused an insurer to settle a suit alleging bad-faith failure to settle. P&W’s client had represented the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, and the other attorney had represented the driver’s employer. After trial in the accident case, the employer assigned its rights against the insurer to the plaintiff, and the insurer settled the bad-faith suit that the plaintiff brought against the insurer. The trial court held, and the appellate court affirmed, that P&W’s client was not the proximate cause of the insurer’s damages because his client had not assigned any rights against the insurer to the underlying plaintiff. Century-Nat’l Ins. Co. v. Schoen, 2017 IL App (1st) 163261-U.
R.J. VanSwol is published in the Fall 2017 issue of the Family Advocate, the magazine of the ABA Section of Family Law with an article on professional liability insurance for family law attorneys.
You can read the article here.
Kingshuk Roy and Dustin Karrison obtained the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a towing company seeking to recover towing costs from the owner of cargo onboard a tractor that wrecked on an Illinois highway. P&W argued that the plain language of the Illinois Vehicle Code did not include cargo owners, but only vehicle owners, operators, or other persons legally entitled to possession of the vehicle. The trial court agreed and dismissed the claim against the cargo owner with prejudice.
Tom Underwood, Mike Sanders, and R.J. VanSwol obtained the dismissal of a federal action alleging that a number of law firms and their clients had conspired with a state-court judge to violate the plaintiff’s due-process and equal-protection rights in an underlying wrongful-death case. After nearly fifteen years of litigation, the parties in the underlying case had reached a multimillion-dollar settlement, and the state-court judge made the rulings on dependency and allocation that were required for distribution of the settlement. The federal plaintiff, a potential beneficiary of the estate, disputed the state court’s jurisdiction over him and refused to participate in those proceedings. P&W moved to dismiss the federal plaintiff’s action because the Rooker–Feldman doctrine precludes parties from filing collateral attacks in federal court against state-court judgments. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the plaintiff’s claims, holding that the plaintiff’s remedies, if any, were in the state-court system.
Brad Purcell gave a presentation in Michigan on September 7 for an insurance client regarding changes in the Federal Rules of Evidence. Amendments to the rules that take effect on December 1, 2017, will make self-authentication of data copied from electronic devices easier. With a growing number of cases involving amateur cell phone video, surveillance video, and bodycam or dashcam video, it is important for attorneys and clients to be prepared for these changes.
Tom Underwood and R.J. VanSwol obtained summary judgment in favor of a general contractor’s insurer and against a subcontractor’s insurer in a declaratory action concerning allocation of an underlying construction injury settlement. The subcontractor’s insurer had argued that its policy language reduced the liability limits available to the general contractor as an additional insured and had claimed that the insurance requirements in the subcontract were ambiguous. The Cook County court rejected the arguments of the subcontractor’s insurer, holding that the subcontract imposed “a floor, not a ceiling” when calling for “not less than” a given amount of coverage. This judgment continues a recent streak of recovering over $15 million in judgments and settlements for insurers that have been forced to step in and protect their insureds when other carriers are reluctant to acknowledge coverage.
R.J. VanSwol obtained judgment on the pleadings in favor of a restaurant’s insurer on the grounds that it owed no coverage to a delivery driver in an underlying suit based on an auto accident with a pedestrian. The DuPage County court agreed with P&W’s arguments that the restaurant’s auto liability policy did not apply because the driver was not an insured under the policy while using a car that he or a member of his household owned, and that even if he had qualified as an insured under the restaurant’s general liability policy, the auto exclusion in that policy would have precluded coverage for the alleged accident.