Harradon et al v State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 19 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment by Plaintiffs Donald G Harradon, Kathy S Harradon and DENYING 24 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment by Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. The Court SETS a Telephonic Scheduling Conference for 8/11/2021 at 11:30 AM (E.D.T.) in US District Court - South Bend before Magistrate Judge Michael G Gotsch Sr. to discuss the status of this case and potential trial dates. To connect to the conference, parties should dial 877-336-1828, and enter access code 5433302# at least five minutes before the conference start time. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael G Gotsch, Sr on 7/16/2021. (lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
DONALD G. HARRADON and
KATHY S. HARRADON
CASE NO. 3:19-CV-707-MGG
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE
OPINION AND ORDER
The undersigned has plenary authority over this case pursuant to the consent of
the parties and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Ripe before the Court in this declaratory judgment
action are Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Defendant’s CrossMotion for Summary Judgment. As detailed below, both motions are denied.
Plaintiffs Donald G. Harradon (“Donald”) and Kathy S. Harradon filed their
complaint in the Circuit Court of Marshall County, Indiana on August 7, 2019. Through
their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that non-party Mya Lewis (“Mya”) was a resident
relative of her mother, Anita Lewis (“Anita”), who held an automobile insurance policy
issued by Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State
Farm”) at the time of Mya’s car collision with Donald, and is thus entitled to insurance
coverage provided by that policy. [DE 3 at 2]. Plaintiffs now seek declaratory judgment
declaring that Mya is covered under Anita’s State Farm policy.
State Farm removed the action to federal court on September 3, 2019, alleging
subject matter jurisdiction based on the parties’ diversity of citizenship. Jurisdiction is
proper in this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) because it is between citizens of different
states and the amount in controversy, exclusive of interest and costs exceeds $75,000.
[DE 2 at 2].
After completing some but not all discovery, Plaintiffs filed their instant motion
for partial summary judgment, seeking declaratory judgment in their favor on their
claim that Mya was a resident relative of Anita Lewis and was a covered insured under
the State Farm policy. [DE 19 at 1]. Defendant filed its own cross-motion for summary
judgment seeking declaratory judgment in its favor on all claims asserting that Mya did
not primarily reside at Anita’s house and thus was not a resident relative under the
State Farm policy. [DE 25 at 2]. Both motions were fully briefed.
Where facts are in dispute, this Court has determined that the disputed facts are
either not material or has chosen to address such disputes in the Court’s substantive
analysis of the issues.
On Saturday, October 7, 2017, a collision occurred between automobiles driven
by Donald and Mya in Marshall County, Indiana. Donald sustained significant injuries
because of that collision. [DE 20 at 1]. At the time, the automobile driven by Mya was
insured by Auto-Owners Insurance Company, that paid its policy limits of $100,000 to
Plaintiffs. [DE 19 at 2].
At the same time, Anita was insured under a State Farm automobile insurance
policy, number 422 7662-A16-14A. [DE 20 at 2]. Anita’s State Farm policy included
liability coverage and was in effect at the time of the collision. The insurance policy
provided coverage for the named insured shown on the declarations page of the policy
as well as “resident relatives” of the named insured. [DE 25 at 3].
On the date of the collision, Mya was staying with her boyfriend Ben Myers
(“Ben”), who lived with his mother at a home in Culver, Indiana. [See DE 21-4 at 1; DE
25 at 5]. Mya moved in with her boyfriend following her graduation from Culver high
school in June 2017. [DE 21-2 at 6]. Mya had previously lived with Anita at her home in
Rochester, Indiana. [Id. at 7]. While living with Ben, Mya left her dog at her mother’s
residence and stopped by her mother’s house several times a week to feed the dog. [Id.
at 6]. Mya also paid room and board in monthly payments to Ben’s mother. [DE 21-4 at
70]. Although Mya considered the house that she shared with Ben to be her “primary
residence,” [DE 21-3 at 30], she used her mother’s address on her driver’s license and
bank account and received tax returns, tax refunds, and a majority of her mail at her
mother’s address, as she had not filed an official change of address with the Post Office.
[Id. at 34; DE 21-2 at 9]. While she lived with Ben, Mya did not have a key to her
mother’s house until after the October 2017 accident. [DE 21-4 at 1].
As the result of the accident in October 2017, Mya broke both of her hands and
injured her spine, resulting in severe injury. Approximately three days after her
accident, Mya gave a statement regarding the accident and recalls giving her mother’s
address as her own. [Id. at 17]. Despite her mother’s request that Mya move back home
following her injury, Mya continued living with Ben. [Id. at 1]. In November 2017, Mya
registered for CNA classes and listed her mother’s address on her registration. [Id. at
19]. Mya became pregnant by Ben in December 2018; however, following a
disagreement with him, Mya moved back in with her mother. [DE 21-2 at 6].
In the meantime, State Farm issued a letter to Mya and her mother on August 28,
2018, denying coverage for Mya’s October 2017 accident because Mya did not qualify as
an “insured” under Anita’s policy because State Farm concluded Mya was not a
“resident relative” of Anita’s at the time of the collision. [DE 21-7 at 1]. Following this
denial, Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit in state court, seeking declaratory judgment
that at the time of the collision in question, Mya was a resident relative for the purposes
of Anita’s policy and is entitled to coverage under that policy. As noted above, this
matter was removed to this Court in September 2019.
Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Moore v. Vital Prod. Inc., 641 F.3d 253,
256 (7th Cir. 2011); Lawson v. CSX Transp., Inc., 245 F.3d 916, 922 (7th Cir. 2001). In
determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, this Court must construe all
facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party as well as draw all reasonable
and justifiable inferences in favor of that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 255 (1986); King v. Preferred Technical Group, 166 F.3d 887, 890 (7th Cir. 1999).
To overcome a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party cannot rest
on the mere allegations or denials contained in its pleadings. Rather, the nonmoving
party must present sufficient evidence to show the existence of each element of its case
on which it will bear the burden at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322–23 (1986);
Robin v. Espo Eng’g Corp., 200 F.3d 1081, 1088 (7th Cir. 2000). Where a factual record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party,
there is not a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In other words, “[s]ummary judgment is not a dress rehearsal or
practice run; it is the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show
what evidence it had that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the
events.” Hammel v. Eau Galle Cheese Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005) (quotations
The primary issue in this case is whether Mya Lewis is entitled to coverage under
the operative State Farm Insurance Policy. At its core, the parties’ dispute centers
around whether Mya was a “resident relative” of Anita Lewis, the insurance
policyholder, in October 2017 when Mya’s car collided with Donald’s.
Plaintiffs contend that Mya is entitled to coverage because she was a “resident
relative” of Anita Lewis at the time of the collision and that at no point could Mya have
been considered a resident of the house that she shared with Ben. Defendant contends
that Mya is not entitled to coverage because, regardless of whether Mya was a resident
of Anita’s residence, Mya did not “primarily reside” there as required by the State Farm
insurance policy. Neither party disputes that Mya is a relative of her mother, Anita.
The relevant provision of the insurance agreement provides that State Farm will
“pay damages an insured becomes legally liable to pay . . . caused by an accident that
involves a vehicle for that insured is provided Liability Coverage by the policy.” [DE 211 at 13 (emphasis in original)]. The policy lists “resident relatives” as “insured” for the
purposes of the policy. [DE 25-3 at 5]. As relevant to the parties’ instant disputes, the
term “resident relative” is defined as follows:
a person, other than you, who resides primarily with the first person shown
as a named insured on the Declarations Page and who is:
1. related to that named insured or his or her spouse by blood,
marriage, or adoption, including an unmarried and unemancipated
child of either who is away at school and otherwise maintains his or
her primary residence with that named insured; . . . .
[DE 21-1 at 13].
Under Indiana state law, “the interpretation of an insurance policy presents a
question of law to be decided by the court.” Nat’l Fire & Cas. Co. v. W. By & Through
Norris, 107 F.3d 531, 535 (7th Cir. 1997). If the language in a policy is unambiguous, then
the language is given its plain and ordinary meaning. Briles v. Wausau Ins. Cos., 858
N.E.2d 208, 213 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006). An ambiguity exists when a provision in a policy is
subject to more than one interpretation and reasonable people could differ regarding its
meaning. Id. Under Indiana law, “ambiguities in insurance policies are generally
construed against the policy drafter, and an interpretation yielding coverage is favored.
Alexander v. Erie Ins. Exch., 982 F.2d 1153, 1157 (7th Cir. 1993). However, if no ambiguity
exists, the policy will not be interpreted to provide greater coverage than the parties
bargained for themselves.” Id.
Indiana courts have consistently held that the term “resident” does not have a
precise meaning. Jones v. W. Reserve Grp., 699 N.E.2d 711, 714 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998).
Indiana courts have also explicitly declined to interpret the term as narrowly referring
to a person’s home or fixed residence. Id. at 716. In determining whether someone is a
resident of a household for the purposes of an automobile liability insurance contract,
Indiana courts consider three factors: (1) whether the claimant maintained a physical
presence in the named insured’s home; (2) whether the claimant had the subjective
intent to reside there; and (3) the nature of claimant’s access to the home and its
contents. Jones, 699 N.E.2d at 714 (citing Allstate Ins. Co. v. Neumann, 435 N.E.2d 591, 594
(Ind. Ct. App. 1982)). The factfinder must also consider all evidence that is indicative of
the claimant’s living habits. Id.
In decisions construing the term “resident” in insurance policies, courts have
applied the rule of construction that favors coverage. Neumann, 435 N.E.2d at 592. As
such, in construing the term in insurance policies, it should be given a broad meaning in
“extension” cases and a narrow interpretation in “exclusion” cases. See Aetna Cas. &
Surety Co. v. Crafton, 551 N.E.2d 893, 895 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990). An extension case, like
Plaintiffs’ case here, is one that involves a question of whether coverage in an insurance
policy should be extended beyond the named insured. 1 Id.
The term “primary resident,” however, is not defined in Anita’s policy, and
Indiana courts have not definitively ruled on how the term should be interpreted in an
insurance context. In cases where no state court decision controls, federal district courts
must “determine how the state’s highest court would rule.” Rodas v. Seidlin, 656 F.3d
610, 626 (7th Cir. 2011). Courts may also look to well-reasoned decisions in other
jurisdictions for guidance on these issues. Id. (citing Pisciotta v. Old Nat’l Bancorp, 499
F.3d 629, 635 (7th Cir. 2007)).
The Court agrees with other courts, such as the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of Indiana, which have determined that the plain meaning of the word
“primary” leaves little doubt as to the meaning of the term “primary residence.” See
Grimes v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 1:18-CV-01039, 2019 WL 6491889, at *5 (S.D.
Ind. Dec. 3, 2019). The Grimes court relied upon the definition of “primary” as “First;
principal; chief; leading” found in Black’s Law Dictionary to conclude that the term
“primary residence,” as used in this context, was unambiguous as a matter of law. Id.
Similarly, the term “primary residence” in the context of this case should be given its
ordinary and plain meaning. However, before it can be determined that a person—
Throughout their briefs, both parties refer to this case as an “inclusion” case rather than an “extension”
case. Neither party explains why they use this terminology and there is no indication that Indiana courts
distinguish between the two terms. Accordingly, the Court will treat the terms as though they are
namely Mya— “primarily” resides at a particular residence, it must first be determined
that the person resides there at all.
The three considerations for determining residence as outlined in Jones include
only language reflecting Indiana state courts’ evaluation of whether a claimant was a
“resident” of the named insured’s household. “Resides primarily,” as included in the
definition of “resident relative” in Anita’s policy at issue here, implies the existence of
multiple residences. The possibility of having multiple residences is established in
Indiana law. See Jones, 699 N.E.2d at 717 (citing Neumann, 435 N.E.2d at 592).
Additionally, residency cannot simply be determined based upon the claimant’s home
or fixed residence. Id. Rather, under Jones, three factors (presence, intent, and access)
should be considered when considering a person’s residence, as outlined above. Id. By
inference then, a claimant’s residence at any home, whether the named insured’s or a
third party’s, must be determined by considering the three Jones criteria.
Here, Plaintiffs assert that, because Mya convincingly met the requirements for
residency at Anita’s home under Indiana law, she is Anita’s “resident relative” for the
purpose of the insurance policy. In support, Plaintiffs correctly state that this is an
inclusion case and as such, the term “resident” should be given a broad meaning. See
Crafton, 551 N.E.2d at 895. Applying the three Jones criteria for determining residency to
the facts of this case, Plaintiffs support their contention that Mya was a resident of her
mother’s home at the time of the collision. In particular, Plaintiffs demonstrate that Mya
maintained a physical presence at her mother’s home as evidenced by the undisputed
facts that Mya left her dog at her mother’s house, fed the dog herself occasionally, and
felt as though she was a part owner of the house. [DE 21-2 at 7, 16; DE 21-3 at 1]. The
facts that Mya never changed any bank account, tax, post office, or driver’s license
information to reflect the address of the house that she shared with Ben, that she moved
back in with her mother after she and Ben ended their relationship, that in a statement
given in regard to her October 2017 accident she listed her mother’s address as her own,
and that she used her mother’s address to register for CNA classes in November 2017
further show that Mya possessed the subjective intent to reside in Rochester with her
mother. [DE 21-2 at 9–10, 7; DE 21-4 at 17, 19]. Moreover, Plaintiff cites evidence that
Mya had full access to Anita’s home, could come and go freely and had no restrictions
in regard to access to the property demonstrating the nature of access that Mya had to
the entirety of Anita’s home at the time of the accident. [DE 21-3 at 1, 16]; see also Jones,
699 N.E.2d at 714.
Based on these facts, viewed in light of the broad reading of the term “resident”
necessary in this case and State Farm’s lack of objection as to Mya’s residence in Anita’s
home, there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Mya was a resident of
Anita’s home at the time of the collision. Unfortunately, the finding that Mya was a
resident at Anita’s home is not dispositive of Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary
While State Farm does not dispute Mya’s residency at Anita’s home, it does reject
Plaintiffs’ contention that Mya was a “resident relative” within the definition of the
policy. More specifically, State Farm contends that Mya’s deposition testimony
indisputably illustrates that she primarily resided at Ben’s house at the time of the
collision. It asserts that because of this, Mya could not have resided primarily at her
mother’s residence. Thus, State Farm concludes that Mya was not a “resident relative”
According to State Farm, Mya testified at her deposition that she physically
moved her valued belongings to Ben’s home on a specific date and left only her unused
belongings at her mother’s in order for them to be taken to Goodwill. [See DE 21-3 at
30]. Moreover, Mya testified that she shared a room with Ben at his mother’s house in
Culver and that she considered the Culver house to be her primary residence after
moving. [Id.]. On top of that, Mya testified that when she moved in with Ben, she did
not have a key to her mother’s house and did not receive one until after the October
2017 accident. As a result, Mya stated that she did not have access to her mother’s house
when her mother was not home. [DE 21-4 at 1].
Plaintiffs, on the other hand, contend that Mya did not reside primarily at Ben’s
mother’s house at the time of the collision and that a genuine dispute of material fact
exists as to whether Mya was a resident of that house at all. Considering the Jones
criteria for residence, Plaintiffs do not dispute that Mya maintained a physical presence
at the Culver house.
Arguing that State Farm neither established nor addressed Mya’s subjective
intent to reside at Ben’s mother’s house or the extent to which she had access to that
house and its contents, Plaintiffs designate evidence that Mya lacked the subjective
intent to reside at Ben’s mother’s residence. Specifically, Plaintiffs cite Mya’s deposition
testimony where she stated that she was at Ben’s mother’s house because of her
relationship with Ben and that it was her understanding that, if her relationship with
Ben ended, she would leave the home. [DE 21-2 at 13, 28]. From that testimony,
Plaintiffs conclude that Mya’s presence at Ben’s mother’s house was “expressly
contingent upon her relationship with Ben.” [DE 27 at 2]. Plaintiffs then note that Mya
had moved back in with her mother in December 2018 after she became pregnant by
Ben and that she never officially changed her address to Ben’s mother’s house. State
Farm does not dispute these facts but argues that it designated sufficient evidence of
Mya’s subjective intent to reside at Ben’s mother’s house and the nature of her access to
Ben’s house so as to establish her residence, and her primary residence, at Ben’s
mother’s house thereby justifying summary judgment in its favor.
Assuming that all of the facts presented by Plaintiffs are true and reviewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the evidence presented by Plaintiffs
could convince a rational trier of fact to find that Mya did not have the subjective intent
to reside at Ben’s mother’s home. Although Mya’s testimony indicates that she had
considered Ben’s mother’s house her primary residence at the time of the collision, a
“self-serving statement of intent is not sufficient to find that a new residence has been
established.” State Election Bd. v. Bayh, 521 N.E.2d 1313, 1318 (Ind. 1988). Moreover, Mya
never officially changed her address at the post office, on her driver’s license, on her
insurance information, or for tax purposes, and she listed her mother’s address as her
own on multiple occasions after the accident. In contrast, State Farm cites to Mya’s
testimony that “[n]one of this paperwork changing thing mattered to [her] at all,” which
could show that she had the subjective intent to reside at Ben’s home. [DE 21-4 at 18].
State Farm also directs the Court to the facts that Mya lived at Ben’s mother’s house for
over a year and returned to Ben’s mother’s house after her accident despite Anita’s
request that she return to her home. [DE 21-5 at 1]. Moreover, Mya did not have access
to her mother’s home because she did not have a key until after the accident in October
In light of this competing evidence propounded by the parties, reasonable minds
could differ as to whether Mya had the subjective intent to reside at Ben’s mother’s
house. As a result, there remains a genuine issue of material fact regarding Mya’s
subjective intent and ultimately her residence at Ben’s mother’s house at the time of the
collision. Thus, State Farm is not entitled to summary judgment. Yet Plaintiffs are not
entitled to the partial summary judgment they seek either.
As noted above, Anita’s State Farm policy defines the term “resident relative” to
require inter alia that the potential resident relative “maintain his or her primary
residence with [the] named insured.” [DE 21-1 at 13]. Plaintiffs acknowledge this
definition but argue that State Farm overstates the importance of the word “primary” in
the policy’s definition. Plaintiffs then conclude that Mya qualifies as a “resident
relative” under the policy without asserting or showing that she primarily resided at
In support, Plaintiffs point to language in the letter, written by a State Farm
claims specialist in August 2018, denying coverage under Anita’s policy to Mya. In that
letter, State Farm attributed the denial of coverage to the fact that “Mya Lewis did not
meet the definition of an insured because she was not a resident relative of Anita Lewis
at the time of the accident.” [DE 21-7]. Plaintiffs contend that the letter’s lack of
reference to the “primary residence” term in explaining the denial of coverage
undercuts State Farm’s position here prioritizing “primary” in the undisputed
definition of “resident relative.” This proves too much.
Given the “primary residence” language in the policy’s definition of a “resident
relative,” a claimant who does not reside primarily with the named insured does not
qualify as a “resident relative.” Thus, if a claimant did not primarily reside with the
named insured, coverage would be denied on the grounds that they were not a
“resident relative” for the purpose of the policy. Therefore, the omission of any mention
of “primary residence” in the denial letter hardly suggests Mya’s “primary residence”
was not considered in the evaluation that led to the denial of coverage.
Additionally, Plaintiffs challenge the applicability of the Grimes holding—that
the term “primary residence” is unambiguous based on the definition of the word
“primary” and should be given its plain and ordinary meaning—to the facts of this
case. See Grimes, 2019 WL 6491889, at *5. As a preliminary matter, Plaintiffs are correct
that Grimes, a decision of a sister District Court, is not precedential or otherwise binding
on this Court. Nevertheless, given the dearth of binding authority available on the
specific term “primary residence,” it is a case that can offer some persuasive insight.
Substantively, Plaintiffs attempt to distinguish Grimes from the facts of this case.
Plaintiffs assert that Grimes should be read as a case for exclusion but that this case is
one of inclusion such that the terms of Anita’s insurance contract should be construed
more broadly than the contract in Grimes. Plaintiffs fail, however, to support the
distinction. First, the cases cited by Plaintiffs do not discuss the specific term “primary
residence.” See Omni Ins. Grp v. Poage, 996 N.E.2d 750, 756 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012); Ind.
Farmers Mut. Ins. Co. v. Imel, 817 N.E.2d 299, 304 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004). Poage and Imel
only discuss the word “resident” when concluding that it warrants a broad
interpretation in insurance cases. Poage, 996 N.E.2d at 756; Imel, 817 N.E.2d at 304. As
noted above, individuals may reside in more than one place. In Grimes, instead of
focusing on definition of “resident,” the court interpreted the term “primary resident,”
which is the operative language in the State Farm policy in question.
Second, both Grimes and the instant case are cases of inclusion. In Grimes, the
issue before the court was whether a claimant could be considered a “resident relative”
under their parents’ underinsured motor vehicle policy with State Farm. Grimes, 2019
WL 6491889, at *1. Here, the central question is whether insurance coverage under
Anita’s State Farm automobile policy should extend beyond her to Mya as “resident
relative.” Thus, the facts of Grimes are sufficiently analogous to the relevant facts in this
case that its holding is relevant to this Court’s determination of where Mya primarily
resided at the time of the accident even though Grimes does not constitute binding
authority in this Court.
Although it may be true, as Plaintiffs argue, that “there are many factors in this
case to determine whether Mya Lewis was a resident relative,” [DE 26 at 2–3], the
insurance policy in question clearly states that a resident relative is someone who
“primarily” resides with the insured. [DE 21-1 at 13]. And Plaintiffs have neither
established nor asserted that Mya primarily resided at Anita’s home at the time of the
collision. As Plaintiffs do not dispute that Mya did not primarily reside at her mother’s
house at the time of collision, they have not established that Mya was a “resident
relative” in Anita’s home. As such, Plaintiffs are not entitled to the judgment as a matter
of law and their motion for partial summary judgment must be denied.
For the reasons stated above, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment [DE 19] and DENIES State Farm’s Motion for Summary Judgment
The Court SETS a telephonic scheduling conference for Wednesday, August 11,
2021, at 11:30 a.m. (E.D.T.) to discuss the status of this case and potential trial dates. To
connect to the conference, parties should dial 877-336-1828, and enter access code
5433302# at least five minutes before the conference start time.
SO ORDERED this 16th day of July 2021.
s/Michael G. Gotsch, Sr.
Michael G. Gotsch, Sr.
United States Magistrate Judge
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