Grand Prairie insurance lawyers and those in Fort Worth, Dallas, Mesquite, Garland, Carrollton, Richardson, Rowlett, Farmers Branch, and other places in Dallas County need to be able to answer this question properly when handling insurance cases.
The Texarkana Court of Appeals answered this question in a 1978 opinion. The style of the case is, Hartford Casualty Insurance Company v. Phillips.
Here is some background:
This case involves the question of coverage under the uninsured motorist provisions of a policy of automobile liability insurance. Barbara Phillips is the named insured and sought recovery of damages for bodily injuries sustained by her son, Jerry Glenn Phillips, as a result of an accident caused by an uninsured motorist. Trial was to a jury which found in response to a special issue that Jerry Glenn Phillips was a “resident of the same household” as Barbara Smith Phillips. Hartford Casualty Insurance Company contended that Jerry Glenn Phillips was not such a resident as a matter of law; that there was no evidence to support the jury finding; that there was insufficient evidence to support such finding; and that such finding was so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be manifestly wrong and unjust. These points were considered together.
It should be noted that the charge to the jury did not attempt to explain or instruct upon what constitutes a “resident of the same household” nor did it appear that a request for such was made and no complaint was made in the Appeals Court of the trial court’s failure to give such an instruction. It should also be noted that at the time of his death Jerry Glenn Phillips was only fourteen years of age.
Barbara Smith Phillips, the mother of Jerry Glenn Phillips, and Jerry Leon Phillips, the father of Jerry Glenn Phillips, were divorced in 1964 and custody was placed with Barbara. However, in 1965, without a change in the custody order, Jerry Glenn, through an agreement by his parents, went to live with his father. It appears that Barbara had only a one bedroom apartment and the father had a two story home with ample space for a separate bedroom for Jerry Glenn, such home being located within twelve blocks of the school that Jerry Glenn attended. Barbara’s apartment was not within the school district and the home address of Jerry Glenn for school purposes was that of his father. He had his meals and kept his clothes at his father’s house except when visiting his mother. He also kept extra clothes at his mother’s apartment. The father claimed Jerry Glenn as a dependent on his income tax returns. The school directory listed his address as that of his father. The medical, hospital, physician records and police report reflected that he resided with his father. His mother bought all of his clothing and provided his food when he was at her apartment. His father testified that he stayed with both him and his mother, Barbara. The jury found as a fact that Jerry Glenn was a resident of his mother’s household and the court entered judgment for Barbara Glenn.
At this point, however, it should first be noted that Barbara was the legal custodian of the child, that the child was only fourteen years of age and that a person, particularly a child, can have more than one “residence” as distinguished from a “domicile.”
It is quite evident that a finding by the court or jury that Jerry Glenn was a “resident” of his father’s household would be adequately supported by the evidence. However, such a finding would not necessarily foreclose and prevent a finding that he was also a “resident” of his mother’s household. The mother, Barbara, remained his legal custodian, contributed to his support, he regularly spent time with her in her apartment and kept some clothes there. Barbara as his legal custodian, had she so desired, could legally have required him to remain under her roof full time. The fact that for what apparently she and his father jointly felt would be for his best interest, would not within itself as a matter of law prevent him from being a “resident” of her household. From the entire record, the court was unable to say that the complained of jury finding is so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be manifestly unjust.
Thus, the court affirmed the trial court findings.
These cases can occasionally be difficult. Even where they do not seem to be difficult, an experienced Insurance Law Attorney can be helpful in arguing the law to an insurance adjuster. A proper argument will sometimes prevent a costly and lengthy lawsuit.