Limit in Insurance Coverage Affirmed in Porch Collapse Case; Ware v. First Specialty Insurance Corp.

In 2003, a three-story porch in Chicago’s Lincoln Park collapsed during a party. Thirteen people were killed and another 29 were injured. Insurance coverage was an issue taken up in a declaratory judgment action in the chancery division of Cook County’s Circuit Court. It was determined that the collapse of the porch constituted a single occurrence under First Specialty Insurance Corp.’s insurance coverage.The circuit court’s decision was that there was $1 million of coverage for the occurrence, not $2 million in the aggregate.

The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s decision after examining the policy language. It was concluded that there was nothing in the insurance policy that would support the plaintiffs’ argument that the porch collapse was a multiple occurrence.

Forty-two people, including the families of the deceased victims and 29 others who suffered injuries in the collapse, filed a lawsuit against First Specialty in 2010. They argued that First Specialty should pay the aggregate amount $2 million rather than $1 million.

Both parties agreed that the porch collapse was a single occurrence that caused the injuries and deaths. The plaintiffs argued, however, that because the injuries and deaths occurred at different times, First Specialty could not prove that there was a single event under the insurance policy.

Both sides filed motions for summary judgment. The circuit court judge found in favor of First Specialty, finding that there was just one occurrence. This appeal was taken to the Illinois Appellate Court. The appellate court’s decision highlighted the fact that the parties agreed that all of the injuries were caused directly and solely by a single incident, the porch collapse. There were not multiple incidents occurring over an open-ended stretch of time.

Jean Ware, et al. v. First Specialty Insurance Corp., 2012 IL App. (1st) 113340.

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune, James Branaman.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling injury cases for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Beverly, Mundelein, Morton Grove, Chicago (Bridgeport), Bridgeview, Elmhurst, New Lenox and Bolingbrook, Ill.

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