Log In

Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Woodfield Mall, LLC

407 Ill.App.3d 372, 941 N.E.2d 209, 346 Ill. Dec. 651 (1st dist. 6th div. 2010)

Words & Phrases

Choice Of Law

Trial Judge

Sophia H. Hall

Appellate Judge

Justice McBride; Cahill and Gordon concur


The location of an insured loss is not dispositive in determining which state’s law should govern interpretation of an insurance policy.

Fact Summary

Mark Swanson, an A/C technician employed by Carrier Corporation, fell to his death at Woodfield Mall while doing work for LensCrafters, one of the mall’s tenants. His wife Nina sued Woodfield, but Woodfield passed the complaint on to LensCrafters’s insurer, Liberty Mutual. The trial court found that Liberty Mutual had no duty to defend Woodfield.

On appeal, Woodfield argued that the trial court erred in finding that Ohio law, not Illinois law, controlled the policy’s interpretation. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that Illinois courts have deemphasized the location of the insured loss when the policy’s risks are spread nationwide. Here, the policy covered risks that could arise anywhere in the country and did not specifically state the location of the insured risks. LensCrafters has locations all over North America, it is domiciled in Mason, OH, its insurance procurement occurred entirely in Ohio, and Ohio is its headquarters and the “nerve center” for its stores. Thus, Ohio had more significant contacts with this insurance contract than Illinois did, and Ohio law controlled the policy’s interpretation.

The court further held that, even under the Illinois law that Woodfield argued was controlling, Liberty Mutual’s policy did not encompass the accident because Swanson’s injury did not arise out of LensCrafters’s work as an eyewear retailer or its leased premises. Woodfield had argued that it should be insured under the policy because it was listed as an “additional insured.” The court agreed that Woodfield was indeed listed as an “additional insured,” but only for personal injury or property damage arising out of LensCrafters’ premises and operations. This accident, the court held, arose out of neither LensCrafters’s premises nor its operations. Swanson fell from an affixed ladder controlled and maintained by Woodfield that was in no way “in, on, or about” LensCrafters’s premises, and he was doing HVAC “work” for his employer rather than LensCrafters’s eyewear-related “work” when the accident occurred.