Sanan Sheikh was 15-years-old and had an Illinois temporary driving permit when his father, Maqbool Sheikh, asked him to move the family van to another parking space. His father wanted to observe his progress in learning to “parallel-park” a vehicle. His father was watching him park the van from across the street, when abruptly the teenager stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal sending the vehicle crashing into Jasmin Kopic. Kopic was injured and fell onto the adjacent bed of grass and later brought a personal injury suit in a circuit court located in Cook County.
The family had motor vehicle insurance coverage provided by Founders Insurance Company, who argued that they had no obligation to provide coverage for the accident because Sanan was not entitled to be driving yet. The policy terms explained that coverage would be excluded when “injury or damage occurred from use by a person who is not entitled to be operating the vehicle.”
The provisions of the state’s driving law for temporary learning permits says that those issued a permit are only to operate a vehicle with either an instructor from a driver’s education program or with direct parental supervision while seated in the passenger seat. Because Maqbool was not seated in the vehicle’s passenger seat, Founders felt that they were not obligated to provide coverage in this situation. They filed a motion requesting a summary judgment, which the court approved, leading Maqbool to then file an appeal.
The court’s objective was to determine if the policy terms clearly reflected the insurance company’s position in the case. The court had employed the standard that such policies are interpreted according to what an “ordinary and reasonable person would believe.” They stated that Illinois law requires drivers to have a valid license, which Sanan did not have at that time. The appeals court viewed the matter from a slightly different perspective saying that Sanon’s permit did allow for “proper grounds” to operate a vehicle and felt that some limited exceptions may apply.
The court clarified that the purpose of the permit is to allow the individual to practice driving with proper supervision. Both the father and son had previously stated that their intentions that day were to observe Sanan’s parking ability. Further, a reasonable person could believe that a permit holder would be allowed to operate with supervision. When the court weighed the decision they did so by viewing it in “a light favorable to the nonmoving party” and that “reasonable belief” was very ambiguous term. Illinois law states that when insurance policies are deemed to be ambiguous, that the terms are questions of fact. Because a genuine issue of fact exists, a summary judgment would be inappropriate; thus, the court reversed the trial court’s decision.
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