In the case of apparent first impression, a Montgomery County judge ruled in the case of Erie Insurance Exchange v. Montesano, No. 2016-13318 (C.P. Montg. Co. Sept. 1, 2020 Rogers, J.), that a daughter who lived periodically in different relatives’ homes was considered to be a resident of her father’s house and therefore covered under her father’s car insurance policy. As such, the court held that Erie Insurance could be held liable for $200,000.00 in coverage for injuries allegedly sustained by the daughter during a motor vehicle accident that occurred while she was traveling from her mother’s home in Florida to her grandparents’ home in Alabama.
The Erie Insurance policy at issue belonged to the injured party’s father and stepmother.
According to the Opinion, the injured party daughter lived with her father and stepmother for about 19 years before moving in with her mother in Florida. She then decided to move in with her grandparents in Alabama.
The injured party’s movements among the residences apparently ended when the family members decided that she should move back to the home of her father and stepmother. Prior to her return, the subject accident occurred in which the daughter was injured and her mother was fatally injured. The injured party’s sister was driving the vehicle at the time, which vehicle belonged to the injured party’s mother.
The family filed a claim with Erie on behalf of the injured daughter demanding the payment of the $200,000.00 policy limits. The carrier denied coverage because the injured party was not a “resident” of the father and stepmother’s home at the time of the accident.
The court found that the central issue of the case was what constituted “physically living” with another “on a regular basis” under the terms of the policy.
The court found that the injured party daughter had physically lived in her father and stepmother’s home for nineteen (19) years before departing with a carry-on bag and a few clothes, shoes, and toiletries, but leaving behind all of her other worldly possessions.
The court ruled that the injured party daughter only lived as a house guest at both her mother’s trailer house in Florida and her grandmother’s house in Alabama. The court noted that the injured party’s previous visit to her mother and grandmother had been temporary and sporadic. The court found that the trip at issue was no different.
The court otherwise noted that, although as a question of physical fact, the injured party was making her way from her grandmother’s home to her father’s home at the time of the accident, for all intents and purposes, the injured party’s true and permanent residence was her father’s home.
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I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Harrisburg, PA law firm of Schmidt Kramer P.C., for bringing this case to my attention.