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Baites v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

December 08, 1998

REBA BAITES APPELLANT
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLEE



Before McMILLIN, P.j., Diaz, Hinkebein, And Payne, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hinkebein, J.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: December 30, 1996

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. GEORGE B. READY

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: DESOTO COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - INSURANCE

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: SUMMARY JUDGMENT GRANTED IN FAVOR OF APPELLEE

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED

¶1. This conflicts of law case stems from an automobile accident involving the plaintiff, Reba Baites, and another, at-fault but underinsured driver. In an attempt to procure additional compensation for her resulting injuries, Baites is now attempting to "stack" her own uninsured motorist coverage with that of her daughters with whom she lived at the time of the incident. In considering her enforcement actions and accompanying bad faith suit, the DeSoto County Circuit Court found Tennessee law applicable, forbidding the practice of "stacking." The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of State Farm. Aggrieved by the lower court's decision, Baites initiates this appeal to review the following issue.

I. DID THE TRIAL COURT ERR IN APPLYING THE LAW OF TENNESSEE INSTEAD OF THE LAW OF MISSISSIPPI IN DETERMINING THAT THERE WAS NO UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE AVAILABLE UNDER THE POLICY OF INSURANCE ISSUED BY STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY?

Holding this assignment of error to be without merit, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

FACTS

¶2. At the time of the collision, Baites held an uninsured motorist policy issued by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company which provided for $10,000 in coverage. In addition, her two daughters, Judy Baites and Amy Partridge, held similar policies on their respective vehicles. Judy was insured by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Amy held a $50,000 policy issued by State Farm. The second State Farm policy is the subject of this appeal since, in addition to her own policy, Baites has unsuccessfully claimed coverage under the bodily injury provision therein.

¶3. In reviewing State Farm's motion for summary judgment, the trial court assumed Baites' status as an insured under the terms of the Partridge policy and proceeded directly to the question of enforceability under governing law. It appears that the policy was issued in Tennessee by a Tennessee agent of the company while Ms. Partridge was a resident of that state. But shortly thereafter, she moved to her mother's Mississippi home and failed to notify the company of this change until nearly two years later, many months after Baites' accident. During this interim period Partridge purposefully continued to represent herself as a Tennessee resident to State Farm as well as nearly every other company she conducted business with, including her health insurer, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Tennessee, and numerous credit card companies. Moreover, she declared a Memphis post office box as her address on several employment applications and continued to purchase Tennessee license plates for her vehicle. According to her deposition, the point of this was to enhance her chances of gaining employment as a teacher in the Shelby County, Tennessee school district, which has a local residency requirement. It appears that she genuinely intended to return to Tennessee if and when one of these highly sought-after positions became available, but believed that in the meantime the school district might favor a candidate already residing in the area.

ΒΆ4. After examining these facts, the circuit court found that Tennessee indeed had the most significant contacts with the insurance policy for choice of law purposes and held that state's law to be controlling. Since the application of those rules, as opposed to Mississippi's, ...


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