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Homesite Ins. Co. v. Hindman

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

March 22, 2010, Submitted; April 23, 2010, Decided

DOCKET NO. A-5103-08T1

Opinion

 [*43]  [**805]   The opinion of the court was delivered by

 [*44]  LISA, P.J.A.D.

The issue in this case is whether either the business or rental exclusions in a homeowner's policy issued by appellant Homesite Insurance Company (Homesite) defeat coverage for the insured homeowner, defendant Susan Hindman. On cross-motions for summary judgment in Homesite's declaratory judgment action, the trial court found that neither exclusion applied and accordingly granted Hindman's motion and denied Homesite's. We agree with the trial court and affirm.

In 1994, Hindman inherited from her mother a single family home in Sea Girt. Hindman took occupancy of the home in 1998. At all relevant times, Hindman  [***2] was employed as a teacher's aide in a school. In 1998, she took in as boarders a longtime friend and work colleague, Mary Romano, and her newborn son, John Romano. Mary Romano and John Romano remained in the home continuously as boarders until March 6, 2006, when Hindman's dog bit John Romano and injured him. This is the incident for which Hindman sought coverage from Homesite. At the time of the accident, Mary Romano was paying Hindman $ 300 per month in rent, plus one-half of the utilities. After the accident, Mary Romano and John Romano continued to live with Hindman as boarders.

We provide additional facts regarding other boarders in Hindman's home because they are relevant to the arguments of the parties and the interpretation of the exclusions upon which Homesite relies. In addition to Mary Romano and John Romano, Charissa Cautero was a boarder from 1998 until approximately 2002. Between 2003 and 2004, Ron Kwon was a boarder. Shortly after Kwon moved out in 2004, Marian Henderson moved in; she remained for five months and then moved out before the end of 2004 at Hindman's request for nonpayment of rent. While [**806]  Henderson was living in Hindman's house, a man named Antonio also lived  [***3] there for two months; Hindman apparently took him in because he was destitute, and she did not request rent from him,  [*45]  although he insisted on paying her $ 200 per month. Like Henderson, Antonio also moved out before the end of 2004.

Hindman purchased the Homesite policy that is the subject of this appeal on August 25, 2005. It was a one year policy. Accordingly, throughout the entire time the policy was in effect, Hindman had only two boarders, Mary Romano and John Romano.

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413 N.J. Super. 41 *; 992 A.2d 804 **; 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS 66 ***

HOMESITE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, v. SUSAN HINDMAN AND (INTERESTED PARTIES) MARY ROMANO AND JOHN ROMANO, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.

Subsequent History:  [***1] Approved for Publication April 23, 2010.

Prior History: On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Docket No. L-3378-08.

CORE TERMS

rental, insured, boarders, coverage, rent, occupation, homeowner's, premises, insured premises, business activity, insurance contract, profession, terms, exclusionary provision, time of an accident, rental property, risks

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Insurance Law, Claim, Contract & Practice Issues, Policy Interpretation, Question of Law, Adhesion Contracts, Exclusions, Plain Language, Entire Contract, Ordinary & Usual Meanings, General Overview, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation