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Case Law Update: Evidence in Premises Liability Cases

Clarendon America Co. v. B.G.K. Security Services Inc., No. 1-07-2994 (12-19-08) is a sixth division decision which affirmed a trial court decision that general liability insurer of security firm, sued for wrongful death, personal injuries, and negligent infliction of emotional distress, resulting from its alleged negligent provision of security services at Cook County office building when fire broke out, may not use extrinsic evidence beyond language of policy and allegations of complaints against its insured, in declaratory judgment action challenging its obligation to defend insured against underlying complaints based on exclusion for joint ventures. Therefore, because named insured was sued in its individual capacity in underlying litigation, because insured may not be forced to litigate ultimate fact of underlying litigation in declaratory judgment action, and because joint venture provision in exclusion in policy is ambiguous, trial court did not err when it granted summary judgment in favor of insured. This decision will have a profound effect on premises liability lawsuits.