Chiles v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co

In Chiles v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 589 S.W.2d 723 (Tex. Civ. App.--Texarkana 1979, no writ) the court considered a claim for coverage for personal property lost in a fire under a broad-form tenant attachment to a homeowner's policy insuring personal property for a term of three years. The policy provided that it covered only property at the premises designated as the "Described Dwelling." The space for identifying the "Described Dwelling" was left blank. At the time of the fire, the insured lived at a different address from the one at which she resided when the policy was issued. The insurer took the position that, because the personal property lost was not at the property the insured lived at when she took out the policy, the property was "off premises" and subject to a lower coverage limit. The court found that the policy was ambiguous because the failure to include a "Described Dwelling" "might well have been considered by the insured as a waiver of the premises restriction set forth in other portions of the policy." Id. This alternate interpretation of the three-year renter's insurance policy was a reasonable one because, as the court noted, "it was foreseeable that the insured tenant was likely to move the insured personal property to another residence before the expiration of the policy." Id. The court concluded that the language of the policy supported an interpretation imposing liability on the insurer, which it adopted. Id. The Chiles court did not hold that the insurer had waived any geographic limitation by omitting to enter an address in the "Described Premises" box in the policy. Rather, the court stated that the insured "might well have considered" it to be a waiver, and concluded that that was a reasonable alternate interpretation of the renter's insurance policy, rendering it ambiguous.