On October 11, a three-judge panel of Illinois’ First District Appellate Court declared that an insurance company has a duty to defend a taxi service in a personal injury suit brought by a blind customer who alleges the company’s driver caused him to walk into a pillar at a hospital entrance. First Chicago Insurance Co. v. My Personal Taxi and Livery Inc. et al., No. 1-19-0164, 2019 WL 5107165 (Ill. App. Ct., 1st Dist. Oct. 11, 2019).
A taxi driver transported Ronald Dixon, who is legally blind, to a medical appointment at a Department of Veteran Affairs hospital on February 9, 2016. According to Dixon, the driver escorted him to the hospital entrance and caused Dixon to walk into a cement pillar. Dixon filed a personal injury suit in state court alleging the defendants breached their duty of ordinary care in transporting and escorting him to his destination.
First Chicago, the insurance company for the taxi service, moved for summary judgment arguing that the incident did not arise out of the ownership or “use” of the vehicle because the driver had already transported the passenger to his destination and the injury occurred after exiting the vehicle. The trial court granted First Chicago summary judgment on this argument.
In reversing the trial court’s decision, the appellate court found that the “use” of a vehicle is broader than mere operation of the vehicle for purposes of an auto insurance policy. The panel did not consider it remote to the cab driver-passenger relationship that a driver who just drove a passenger to the vicinity of his destination would assist a passenger who needs assistance – whether blind, disabled, or merely overladen with luggage – the remainder of the way to his destination. Accordingly, the appellate court declared First Chicago has a duty to defend My Personal Taxi and Livery Service because walking a passenger to the entrance was not an independent act incidental from the use of the insured vehicle.