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Farmers Automobile Insurance Association v. Williams

April 16, 2001


Appeal from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County. No. 98-MR-109 Honorable John W. Countryman, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Callum

Plaintiff, the Farmers Automobile Insurance Association, appeals the trial court's entry of summary judgment in favor of defendants, Matthew J. Williams and Jan M. Courtney. Plaintiff argues that the court erred in ruling that Williams was entitled to coverage under an insurance contract between plaintiff and Courtney. We reverse and remand.

Plaintiff's complaint contained the following allegations. Courtney, a resident of De Kalb, was the named insured on a policy issued by plaintiff. The policy obligated plaintiff to provide underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage to Courtney or "any 'family member.' " The policy included the following definition:

" 'Family member' means a person related to you [Courtney] by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of your household. This includes a ward or foster child."

The policy was effective from May 5, 1998, through November 5, 1998.

On July 12, 1998, Williams, Courtney's son, was injured in an automobile accident. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by an underinsured motorist. The accident occurred in Coconut Creek, Florida, where Williams was living with his father, Courtney's ex-husband. Williams submitted to plaintiff a claim for UIM coverage under Courtney's policy.

According to plaintiff, on the date of the accident, Williams "was not a resident of [Courtney's] household in *** Illinois but instead was a resident of his father's household in *** Florida." Therefore, on the date of the accident, Williams was not covered by Courtney's policy. On those grounds, plaintiff sought a judgment declaring that it had no obligation to pay UIM benefits to Williams.

In his answer, Williams stated that on July 12, 1998, he was a resident of both Courtney's household and his father's household. Further, although he was "living with his father for the purpose of attending school," he was "a permanent resident of his mother's home." Courtney's answer was consistent with Williams'. Thus, defendants claimed that Williams was entitled to UIM benefits under Courtney's policy with plaintiff.

After discovery, both plaintiff and defendants moved for summary judgment (735 ILCS 5/2--1005 (West 1998)). Those motions were based on the following evidence.

In his deposition, Williams testified as follows. In 1996, he graduated high school in Coconut Creek, Florida. While in high school, he started and ended a romantic relationship with Jodie LaCau. After graduation, Williams moved to Courtney's residence in De Kalb. He began attending Kishwaukee Community College (KCC), taking courses required for entry into the school's nursing program. He had a part-time job, and Courtney was helping him financially. He also received financial aid from the State of Illinois. He did not pay rent to Courtney. While living in De Kalb, he resumed his relationship with LaCau, who was still in Florida.

KCC's nursing program required two years of study. However, the program at Broward Community College (BCC), in Coconut Creek, required only 1½ years. Williams was entitled to a tuition reduction at either school because his mother lived in De Kalb and his father lived in Coconut Creek. However, he would get no financial aid from the State of Florida; he would pay his own tuition at BCC. He voluntarily decided to move to Florida and attend BCC. In May 1998, he moved to his father's residence in Coconut Creek. Attending BCC was his only motive for moving. LaCau's presence was merely an "upside"; Williams did not plan to be permanently involved with her. Although he would not begin classes until August or September 1998, Williams left for Florida in May to ensure that he was prepared.

When he moved, Williams closed his bank account but did not discontinue his gym membership. He "made sure to leave [his job] on very good terms" so that he knew "in the summer [he] would always have a job when [he came] home." He packed his car with some clothing, toiletries, compact discs, and photographs. He drove the car to Florida. He left behind "[n]inety percent" of his belongings: his posters, furniture, and sports equipment, and most of his clothes, pictures, and books. He made no arrangements for those belongings to be sent to him. He left his mother on good terms.

In Florida, Williams did not pay his father rent, and his father occasionally gave him money. His mother provided no financial support. He got a part-time job but did not open a bank account. He joined no organizations. His mail continued to go to De Kalb.

On the date of his accident, Williams was 21 years old. He had a key to each of his parents' residences. He had no set plans to return to De Kalb, but his room was as he had left it and he could have returned at any time. He had an Illinois driver's license, and his car was registered in Illinois. He belonged to a church in De Kalb. He had no doctor or dentist in ...

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