COA: Neither party entitled to summary judgment in ‘household’ definition dispute

February 16, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals held summary judgment is inappropriate for either party in a lawsuit seeking to declare a woman who was renting a home as a member of the household of the homeowners for insurance purposes.

Nicole Alarid, the sister of Sandra O’Brien, lived in the O’Briens’ second home in Valparaiso, which the couple had added to their insurance policy as a secondary residence and extended the personal liability coverage to it. The O’Briens at the time were living in Hobart and used the Valparaiso home address to enroll their children in Union Township schools. They intended to move to the township once the Hobart home sold.

Diana Johnson was walking her dogs when one of Alarid’s two dogs slipped under the chain-link fence in the backyard and attacked Johnson and her dogs, seriously injuring them.

Johnson sued Alarid and the O’Briens, and later filed a separate complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that Alarid was an “insured” under the O’Briens’ homeowners policy insuring the Valparaiso house.

The trial court denied Secura’s motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment in favor of Johnson.

The Court of Appeals reversed in Secura Supreme Insurance Company, Tim O'Brien, and Sandra O'Brien v. Diana Johnson,
64A03-1503-PL-83, because the insurance contract did not specifically define the terms “resident” and “household.”

“Indiana’s common law treatment of the term ‘household’ and Secura’s failure to define the term in the contract allow for conflicting reasonable inferences from the undisputed material facts, precluding summary judgment in favor of Secura or Johnson,” Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote.

The appellate court remanded to the court for further proceedings.



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