Illinois Appellate Court Holds That Section Headings in an Insurance Policy Do Not Modify or Restrict Coverage
In Pekin Ins. Co. v. Tovar Snow Professionals, Inc., 2012 IL App (1st) 111136 (1st Dist. 2012), the Illinois Appellate Court held that the words used in the section heading of an insurance policy could not be construed to modify or restrict the policy’s coverage. Drawing on principles of contract construction and prior case precedent, the court stated “The law is clear in Illinois that a heading or caption title to a section of an insurance policy does not modify the coverage provided by the actual textual language appearing in the policy.”
The facts giving rise to the coverage dispute involved a slip and fall case in which the plaintiff claimed that a company performing concrete work, and its snow removal subcontractor, were negligent in clearing the snow and ice from the site where the plaintiff fell and injured herself. The snow removal subcontractor sought coverage as an additional insured under the concrete company’s general commercial liability policy, which broadly provided coverage for persons named as additional insureds in their written contracts with the concrete company. However, the insurer argued that it owed no duty to defend the subcontractor because the heading of the additional insured section of the policy referred to “written construction contracts,” and therefore, the inclusion of the word “construction” in the section heading restricted coverage to injuries arising out of contracts for construction work. Because snow removal is not “construction” work, the insurer argued, it owed no duty to defend the subcontractor as an additional insured.
The Illinois Appellate Court rejected this argument, noting that “a contract term used only in a heading and not in the text and otherwise not defined cannot be properly imposed on an insured to exclude coverage.” The court concluded that the insurer owed a duty to defend the subcontractor as an additional insured and affirmed the trial court’s judgment in the subcontractor’s favor.