The residence of the dog owner is important in a dog bite case because homeowners and renters policies provide coverage for residents of insured households, generally speaking. “Residency” relates to “domicile” and yet has to be distinguished from it. Under English Common Law you acquire at birth the domicile of your parents (which may or may not be where you are born), and your domicile is the same as that of your parents as long as you are a minor. Thereafter, you may acquire a new domicile of your own. The general rule is that to do so you must go to the new location, establish actual residence there, and concurrently have the intention of remaining there indefinitely or of returning there after any temporary absences. Although you may have many residences, you only have one domicile.
Moreover, because everyone must have a domicile, you do not lose the one that you were born with or acquired later unless you acquire a new one. It is usually not enough just to say that you are giving up your domicile in a particular state. You must show that you have given it up by moving to another state and simultaneously showing that you intend to make that state your permanent home. Your intention is thus an important element—but not the only element—of determining your domicile. How do you prove that intention? Following are types of questions often asked:
— What do you consider your permanent home? How long have you lived there?
— Where do you actually reside? How long have you lived there?
— Do you own or rent your residence there?
— Do you pay income tax there?
— What other ties do you have to that place? (Examples: family or organizations)
— Do you own retirement property? Where?
— Where do you have investments?
— Where do you vote? How long have you voted there?
— Are you a member of a church, synagogue, or mosque? Where?
— To what professional and civic organizations do you belong?
— What is the location of your bank accounts (checking and savings)? Where are your safe deposit boxes located?
— In what jurisdiction have you obtained licenses (driver’s, marriage, professional)?
— What is your home leave address?
As noted above, insurance policies use the term “resident.” One’s residence is the place of one’s domicile. There can be a difference, however, between a man’s residence and his domicile. He may have his domicile in Philadelphia, and still he may have a residence in New York. Legally, a person has one domicile but may have several residences. A residence is generally transient in its nature, but it becomes a domicile when it is taken up animo manendi. Roberts; Ecc. R. 75. What is “animus manendi“? The intention of remaining, i.e., to establish a permanent residence. 1 Kent. Comm. 70.
The battle over residency is important to the dog bite victim and the dog owner himself. The latter actually is the first person who wages the battle as to insurance coverage. It therefore is important for dog owners to understand what makes them a resident of a household, so they can qualify for insurance coverage if their dogs bite or otherwise injure a person.