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Beaver v. Country Mut. Ins. Co.

Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District

April 20, 1981, Filed

No. 79-607


 [*1122]   [**1059]   [****501]  This case presents for the first time in Illinois the issue of whether public policy permits insurance against liability for punitive damages that arise out of an insured's own misconduct. The appeal grows out of a garnishment action brought by the plaintiff, Albert Beaver, Jr., in order to  [*1123]  recover from the defendant, Country Mutual Insurance Company, punitive damages in the amount of $ 5,000. Those damages had been assessed during a jury trial against Country Mutual's insured, Thomas Mudge, who is not a party to this appeal.

While a transcript of the proceedings at trial is not a part of the record on review, according to the count of the complaint in which punitive damages were sought,  [***2]  Mudge had "willfully and wantonly" operated a motor vehicle by driving it while intoxicated and by leaving the scene of the accident. The jury had also awarded plaintiff compensatory damages of $ 30,000, which the insurer paid, together with interest and costs. The insurer refused, however, to pay anything with respect to the punitive damages, whereupon plaintiff instituted the garnishment proceeding. Upon defendant's motion to dismiss the garnishment action, the trial court ruled in favor of plaintiff, ordering defendant to pay the amount of punitive damages plus interest and costs. From this order defendant appeals, raising first a public policy issue and, in the alternative, an issue of whether the language of the policy itself may be said to include coverage for punitive damages. Defendant does not contend that the award of punitive damages was in any way improper.

] Although a few jurisdictions, such as Connecticut (see Tedesco v. Maryland Casualty Co. (1941), 127 Conn. 533, 18 A.2d 357), consider the function of punitive damages as additional compensation to the plaintiff, in Illinois, as in most jurisdictions that permit the imposition of such damages, they are intended [***3]  to punish, to deter. This function is expressed in the instruction for exemplary damages, No. 35.01, contained in Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions (IPI), by which the jury is told,

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95 Ill. App. 3d 1122 *; 420 N.E.2d 1058 **; 1981 Ill. App. LEXIS 2572 ***; 51 Ill. Dec. 500 ****

ALBERT C. BEAVER, JR., Plaintiff-Appellee, v. COUNTRY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant

Prior History:  [***1]  APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. WILLIAM JOHNSON, Judge, presiding.

Disposition: Judgment reversed.


punitive damages, damages, insure, public policy, misconduct, insurance company, punish, deter

Civil Procedure, Remedies, Damages, Punitive Damages, Torts, Types of Damages, Punitive Damages, General Overview, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, Standard Instructions, Criminal Law & Procedure, Juries & Jurors, Jury Deliberations, Aggravating Circumstances, Availability, Employers, Labor & Employment Law, Employer Liability, Third Party Insurers, Corporations, Measurement of Damages, Determinative Factors, Vicarious Liability, Agency Relationships, Employers, Activities & Conditions