Insurance company asks judge to decide its duty in $1M personal injury suit

By Rhys Saunders | Nov 15, 2013

An insurance company has asked a federal judge to determine if it has a duty to extend coverage of a snow plowing company to the owners of a Rochelle truck stop being sued by a man who fell there.

Cincinnati Insurance Co. on Nov. 4 filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in Chicago's federal court in relation to Jeffrey Russell's suit against truck-stop chain Road Ranger.

Russell is seeking $1 million in damages against Road Ranger, claiming he fell while fueling his semi-tractor trailer on Dec. 9, 2010 at the station because Road Ranger “negligently managed” it.

According to the insurance company's recent filing, O’Rorke Construction Services Inc. provided services to Road Ranger that included snow plowing and salting. At the time of Russell’s fall, O’Rorke was covered by a Cincinnati insurance policy.

Cincinnati, however, claims it has no responsibility to extend coverage to Road Ranger because Russell’s injury was not caused by O’Rorke’s work, which it asserts was complete when he fell.

O’Rorke was only allowed to salt when contacted and authorized by Road Ranger personnel, and would not be paid for any services rendered unless these conditions were met, according to the complaint that notes O’Rorke provided services to the truck stop on Dec. 4 and Dec. 15, 2010.

“Russell’s fall was not related to any work that O’Rorke completed five days earlier,” the insurance company contends. “O’Rorke’s obligations to Road Ranger under the snow plowing agreement were on a per-call basis. Each service call was self-contained and not connected to other calls.”

Cincinnati further asserts that even if Road Ranger was an additional insured on O’Rorke’s policy – which it wasn’t – then the coverage wouldn’t be extended because Russell’s injury happened away from O’Rorke’s premises and all of the work was complete.

Also, the insurance company claims it is under no obligation to extend coverage to Road Ranger because the area of its property where Russell was injured had been put to its intended use.

In addition, Cincinnati contends that its policy required any insured to provide prompt notice of demands, notices, summons or legal papers. Russell, the company claims, filed suit Dec. 10, 2012, and Road Ranger did not tender its defense to O’Rorke until May 31, 2013.

“Even if Road Ranger is an additional insured under the policy for the Russell suit, Cincinnati still has no obligation under the policy to defend or indemnify Road Ranger for the Russell suit due to late notice,” the insurance company states in its suit.

Cincinnati is represented by Dennis M. Dolan and Yosef C. Klein of Litchfield Cavo LLP. Road Ranger is owned by Daniel Arnold and Sunil Puri, both Illinois residents, according to the complaint.

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