Residents Of The Same Household

Insureds in Grand Prairie, Arlington, Fort Worth, North Richland Hills, Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Dalworthington Gardens, Lake Worth, Crowley, or anywhere else in Tarrant County may wonder when a person is determined to be a member of the household for insurance purposes under an insurance policy. Guidance to an answer of that question was provided in a case in 1977.
The style of the case is, Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Kenneth C. Kimball et al. The opinion was issued by the Waco Court of Appeals.
Kenneth Kimball was the named insured under a policy issued by Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company. Kenneth’s wife, Connie was killed in an automobile accident with an uninsured motorist when the policy was in force. At the time of her death, she and Kenneth were separated, living in separate residences, and a divorce action by her was pending. Farm bureau filed a declaratory judgment as to its responsibilities under the policy for uninsured motorist protection benefits, personal injury benefits, and death indemnity benefits. On the trial, under stipulated facts, the only issue raised by the parties was whether Connie and Kenneth were “residents of the same household,” as that term is used in the policy, at the time of Connie’s death.
The jury answered “yes” to that question and rendered judgment accordingly.
Farm Bureau argued that Connie and Kenneth must also “dwell together under the same roof” in order to be residents of the same household.
This appeals court upheld the jury decision. In doing so they looked at the following evidence and ruled that it was sufficient to satisfy the “residents of the same household” requirement of the insurance policy.
Here are those facts:
Kenneth and Connie, a couple in their 20’s, were married in May, 1972. Their only child, a daughter, was born in September, 1973. Connie was killed on December 21, 1975. Before their separation, they resided in their mobile home in the City of Waco. Early in their marriage, they suffered substantial financial losses in the construction business. Thereafter, during the last two years of their marriage, Kenneth was a “long haul” truck driver, based in Waco. He would be on the road three or four weeks at a time, with no longer than three days home between trips. Sometimes he would get in at night and leave the next morning. On the trips, he virtually lived in his truck. It was arranged with his employer that Connie could draw on his earnings and pick up his paychecks. She cashed the checks, bought the family needs, and paid the bills, including payments on the mobile home and several department store accounts she maintained. Connie also held a job. During the day, she left their child with her mother who lives in the City of Lacy-Lakeview, near Waco. After work when Kenneth was gone, Connie would go home, clean up, carry her work clothes for the next day to her mother’s house, and she and the child would spend the night there. Connie filed suit for divorce on November 5, 1975. Later, she separated from Kenneth and moved into her mother’s house, taking all of her work clothes. After the separation, Connie still kept most of her things in the trailer home. One week before her death, Connie rented an apartment in the City of Bellmead, near Waco, and moved all of her belongings into it. She left a set of dishes in the mobile home for Kenneth. The divorce suit and the separation were precipitated by emotional stress suffered by Connie which was caused by Kenneth’s long absences from home and by the dunning of creditors of their defunct construction business. During the separation, Connie would either meet Kenneth at the truck depot in Waco when he returned from a trip, or she would have their car there for his use and he would go to her. They would go out together for supper when he was home, and would visit into the evening with each other and other trucker-couples at local night spots. Neither was romantically interested in another person. They continued with the arrangement for Connie drawing on his pay, cashing checks, using the money as she saw fit, including her needs and those of the child, and paying the bills. He talked with her several times about reconciliation, but she had not agreed to it at the time of her death. On December 5, 1975, Kenneth returned home to attend his father’s funeral. That night, he and Connie slept together in a room in his mother’s house. Their child was with them. On December 20th, the night before Connie died, she fixed supper for Kenneth in her apartment. Their daughter was with them. They discussed plans for the child’s Christmas. Kenneth had arranged his schedule to be home on Christmas.
An experienced Insurance Law Attorney needs to be consulted early in these situations. As can be seen from the above case, the facts of the case and the way they are presented are vital to the outcome of a case.