Illinois Civil Justice League: Criticism Stacks in Anti-Stacking Case

June 15, 2005

Criticism Stacks in Anti-Stacking Case

Ted Frank at recently examined a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals case that help illustrates exactly why Madison County has earned its negative reputation as the #1 Judicial Hellhole in America.

In the case (Grinnell Select Insurance Company v. Martha Baker), the judges were asked to look at Illinois law in regards to anti-stacking provisions in insurance policies.

According to Ted:

Though the policy language was clear, the task was made trickier because the Fifth District Appellate Court of Illinois--the appellate court for Madison County and much of southern Illinois--had issued two decisions that contradicted Illinois Supreme Court decisions in an effort to read anti-stacking provisions out of the policy.

If you think Ted is critical in this instance, just read what the Court of Appeals had to say in its decision:

It is hard to imagine clearer language. But it is not enough for one state appellate court. The Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District, has held in two decisions that, when the declarations page of a policy contains the language "insurance is provided where a premium is shown", the policy is ambiguous notwithstanding an explicit antistacking clause, because an insured might read the language "insurance is provided" to permit stacking.

The judges then point out that not only did two other courts in Illinois arrive at different conclusions than the Fifth District, but no other court in the nation seems to hold the same opinion as the Fifth District:

As far as we can tell, the Fifth District stands alone among the 50 state judicial systems. The policy Grinnell issued — with a declarations page listing multiple cars, premiums, and coverages separately, and then a clause stating that the limit for one car and one accident is the total available no matter how many vehicles or premiums are shown in the declarations — is the standard auto liability form devised by the Insurance Services Office and is in use across the nation. Defendants did not cite, and we could not find, any decision outside the Fifth District allowing stacking.

In other words, even though Grinnell used a standard auto liability contract - in fact, one used all across the nation - somehow the Fifth District arrived at a different conclusion on the contract than any other court in the country.

As "officials" in Madison County continue to dismiss any validity to the notion their courts are different from any others, let us remember what the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has to say: "As far as we can tell, the Fifth District stands alone among the 50 state judicial systems." Unfortunately, this statement is far from a compliment. In other words, "we're still #1 at being dead last."


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