Residents Of The Same Household Issue

Grand Prairie lawyers and those in Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas, Grapevine, Richardson, Farmers Branch, Carrollton, Mesquite, and other places in the DFW area need to understand this part of an insurance policy.

It is the part dealing with defining “residents of a household.” This is usually a fact question for a judge or jury to decide.

A 1958, El Paso Court of Appeals case, Afredo Arellano v. Maryland Casualty Company issued an opinion that is still good guidance today.

Here is some background.

This is a suit brought by Arellano against Maryland Casualty Company on an automobile liability and physical damage policy. The case was tried before the court without a jury, and judgment was rendered that Arellano take nothing, from which judgment he now appeals.

On or about October 29, 1955 Arellano’s daughter, Blanca Arellano, was injured in an automobile accident while riding in an automobile owned by a third party. Her injuries resulted in medical and surgical expense to Arellano in excess of $500.

At the time of the accident Arellano was insured with Maryland Casualty under an automobile liability and physical damage policy through which Arellano was insured, among other coverage, with a coverage termed ‘Extended Medical payments‘. The coverage protected Arellano and ‘while residents of the same household as the named insured, his spouse and the relatives of either.’

The record reflects that his daughter and wife were residing at 1822 Nevada Street, El Paso, in March, 1954; that he moved out of said residence in March 1954 because of his wife’s health and a disagreement regarding their son, and said he was figuring on taking her to a doctor, but had not done that yet. He said he could have moved back if he wanted to or was ready to, and that he figured on returning home as soon as his wife recovered from her condition. He testified that he lived at his place of business at 604 Myrtle Avenue for four months, and then rented a room with the use of a bath at 600 Myrtle Avenue. He did not sleep or spend any leisure time at the address of 1822 Nevada Street where his wife and daughter lived. He had left some belongings at his room, but had left some clothing at the address at 1822 Nevada Street which he had not worn for two years. The record further shows that he owned the house where his wife and daughter were residing, that he paid all of the utilities part of the time and was paying part of them at the time of the trial; that he declared his house as his homestead; that he had never legally separated from his wife nor had any divorce action been filed.

Arellano contended that the trial court was in error in holding that his daughter was not a member of his household and denying recovery under the policy.

In order for him to recover for the $500 expended for his daughter as a result of said accident he must prove that the daughter was a resident of the same household as he at the time of the accident. This was a question of fact to be determined by the trial court, and the trial court from the evidence submitted found that the Arellano had not discharged this duty.

This appeals court held that the trial court did not abuse his discretion in so holding, and that there was sufficient evidence upon which to base such holding. It appears that Arellano not only had to prove that the person injured was a daughter or relative of the insured, but must also prove that she was living with him under the same roof.

In explaining its decision the court said, “Household’ is defined by Webster’s New International Dictionary as: ‘Those who dwell under the same roof and compose a family; a domestic establishment; family.’ Murray’s Oxford Distionary says: ‘The members of a house collectively; an organized family, including servents or attendants dwelling in a house; a domestic establishment.’ To the same effect is the Century Dictionary. The court also cited a United States Supreme Court case, Arthur v. Morgan, wherein it is said: ‘Persons who dwell togeher as a family constitute a ‘household.”‘

Who a resident is in a household, as stated earlier is usually a fact issue to be determined. An experienced Insurance Law Attorney is going to look at the policy definition of “resident” and the facts in the case. After looking at both, he can then advise a client on the best course of action to pursue.