Session: November 17, 2016
from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-002164-14
Rhynette N. Hurd, Judge
appeal involves a dispute regarding a household exclusion
clause in an automobile insurance policy. Following a
motorcycle accident in which the defendant was injured while
riding as a passenger of the insured, the insurance company
filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the exclusion
relieved it of liability for the defendant's claims
because the defendant was residing in the
insured's household at the time of the accident.
Following a bench trial, the trial court found that the
defendant was not residing in the insured's household at
the time of the accident for purposes of determining
liability coverage and denied the insurance company's
request for declaratory relief. The insurance company
appealed. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right: Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed and Remanded.
H. Owens and Ashleigh C. Kiss, Memphis, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company.
Matthew Porter, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jessica
Davis Carson and Jason R. Hollingsworth, Memphis, Tennessee,
for the appellee, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Kenny Armstrong, J., and David R. Farmer, SP. J., joined.
B. GOLDIN, JUDGE
and Procedural History
December 20, 2013, Jessica Cossitt and Richard Archie were
involved in a single vehicle accident when a motorcycle owned
and operated by Mr. Archie, on which Ms. Cossitt was a
passenger, hit a pothole and veered out of control. Mr.
Archie died as a result of his injuries; Ms. Cossitt survived
but sustained serious personal injuries. At the time of the
accident, Mr. Archie had an automobile insurance policy with
Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company ("Tennessee
Farmers"). The policy contained the following household
exclusion clause: "We do not provide coverage . . . for
any person or entity for bodily injury or
property damage to any covered person or
any person residing in the covered person's
2014, Tennessee Farmers filed a complaint for declaratory
judgment in the Shelby County Circuit Court against Ms.
Cossitt and Mr. Archie's estate. Tennessee Farmers
asserted that the household exclusion clause in Mr.
Archie's insurance policy applied to Ms. Cossitt's
injuries because she was residing in Mr. Archie's
household at the time of the accident. It requested the entry
of an order declaring that it had no obligation to defend or
pay claims filed by Ms. Cossitt against Mr. Archie's
estate arising from the accident. Ms. Cossitt responded,
asserting that the exclusion did not apply because she was
not residing in Mr. Archie's household at the time of the
accident. The case proceeded to a bench trial in May
facts established at trial are largely undisputed. In 2005,
Ms. Cossitt was living in a house that she rented from her
mother for $600 per month. Around that time, she met Mr.
Archie while working as a waitress in a restaurant that he
frequented. Although their relationship was never romantic,
the two became close friends. In 2011, Mr. Archie also moved
into the house that Ms. Cossitt was renting from her mother.
He lived there for approximately six months and paid Ms.
Cossitt's mother $200 per month in rent. In mid-2012, Mr.
Archie moved out and began renting a two-story, three-bedroom
house on Ivawood Drive in Bartlett, Tennessee. Shortly
thereafter, Ms. Cossitt's mother decided to sell the
house she had been renting to her daughter. As a result, Ms.
Cossitt moved into a room at the house of another friend. Ms.
Cossitt testified that she planned to live with the friend
temporarily until she found a better place. She did not pay
rent and put the majority of her furniture in storage.
Despite having a room at the friend's house, she spent
most nights at her boyfriend's house because it was
closer to the restaurant where she worked. This arrangement
lasted for only a few months, however, as Ms. Cossitt's
friend subsequently needed the room for a family member.
Although she had been staying at her boyfriend's house
most nights, Ms. Cossitt testified that she was not ready to
move in with him at the time. When Mr. Archie offered to let
her rent an extra bedroom at the house he was renting, she
January 2013, Ms. Cossitt moved into the house that Mr.
Archie was renting on Ivawood Drive. Ms. Cossitt testified
that she only planned to live at Mr. Archie's house
temporarily until she was financially stable. Apart from a
bed, she did not bring any of her furniture to the house. She
paid Mr. Archie $200 per month in rent. She had her own
bedroom on the second floor and unlimited access to all
common areas of the house. Although she listed the Ivawood
Drive address on her driver's license, she did not
receive her mail there. She did not share personal expenses
with Mr. Archie and continued to spend most ...