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Illinois Attorneys Prevail for Insurer in Court of Appeals Coverage Lawsuit

Chicago Partner Michael P. Baniak and Attorney Dora Lee recently obtained affirmance on appeal on behalf of our insurance company client in the Illinois First District Appellate Court.

In 2018, the State of Illinois filed a three-count Complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County against Plaintiff, an international hotel property located in Downtown Chicago. The suit alleged that Plaintiff violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, specifically their HVAC system that takes water out of and then returns it to the Chicago River. One of the hotel’s insurers filed a related insurance coverage lawsuit that ended up involving multiple insurance companies, including our client. Those insurers each filed similar motions for summary judgment, claiming they did not owe a duty to defend or indemnify the hotel.

Our attorneys contended that no coverage was available due to the lack of an “occurrence” as defined in our client’s general liability policy, the lack of “property damage” alleged and the application of the policy’s pollution exclusion. The Circuit Court granted our motion for summary judgment and subsequently, the hotel filed a notice of appeal with the First District.

In August 2023, the Appellate Court ruled that our client is not required to defend or indemnify the hotel because alleged violations of permitting requirements are not considered an “occurrence.”

Mike Baniak concentrates his practice in all aspects of insurance coverage law. His insurance coverage practice involves evaluating first- and third-party coverage issues, handling insurance coverage litigation and defending insurers in bad faith lawsuits. Mike advises insurers on the broad scope of necessary coverages enabling them to effectively navigate the legal landscape presented in complex and novel claims.

Dora Lee focuses her legal practice on insurance coverage claims, contract interpretation and bad faith litigation. She has experience conducting research for claims involving insurance coverage, contract disputes and administrative review.