IL Sup. Ct. / Auto Farm

Mechanical Device” Exclusion Bars Coverage for Grain Auger Accident

The Supreme Court of Illinois, in an opinion written by Justice Michael Burke with Chief Justice Anne Burke and Justices Garman, Karmeier, Theis, and Neville concurring reversed the appellate court and affirmed the circuit court’s finding of summary judgment for State Farm Insurance Company (“State Farm”) finding that the “mechanical device” exclusion at issue below was not ambiguous nor did the exclusion violate public policy.

The underlying plaintiff Kent Elmore (“Elmore”) suffered a traumatic leg amputation while operating a grain auger. The auger, owned by Elmore’s father and insured by State Farm, transferred grain from a large grain truck into a transport truck and was powered by a tractor. Elmore sued his father for negligence and sought to recover for his injuries under the State Farm auto policy. State Farm filed a declaratory judgement action alleging there was no coverage under the auto policy because the injury was caused by an auger which is neither a car nor a trailer, and thus, not an insured vehicle within the meaning of the auto policy. State Farm also argued that the auger was a “mechanical device” and therefore excluded from coverage under the policy’s “mechanical device” exclusion.

The Illinois Supreme Court found that the exclusion clearly applied and thus precluded coverage for Kent’s injury reasoning that the policy was not designed to insure the risk of devices such as augers. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co. v. Elmore, 2020 IL 125441 (Dec. 3, 2020).