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ELTON SHEFFIELD ET AL. v. AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY COMPANY ET AL. (04/19/68)

SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, ERIE COUNTY 1968.NY.41333 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 293 N.Y.S.2d 213; 57 Misc. 2d 559 April 19, 1968 ELTON SHEFFIELD ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,v.AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY COMPANY ET AL., DEFENDANTS Piazza & Valone (Basil R. Piazza of counsel), for plaintiffs. Bernard L. Sicherman for Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company, defendant. Brown, Kelly, Turner, Hassett & Leach (William D. Hassett of counsel), for Aetna Casualty & Surety Company, defendant. Harold P. Kelly, J. Author: Kelly


Harold P. Kelly, J.

Author: Kelly

 This action for declaratory judgment was tried before the court without a jury on February 27, 1968, February 29, 1968 and March 1, 1968. The plaintiffs bring this action to secure an adjudication of their rights under an automobile liability policy issued by the defendant, the Aetna Casualty & Surety Company, to the plaintiff Elton Sheffield. The material facts developed in this action are substantially undisputed by the parties.

It appears that one Eva Champlin was the owner of a 1960 Rambler automobile that was insured by the defendant Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company. Sometime in late 1964, she moved into the home of her sister, Ella Sheffield, in Mayville, New York, for the purpose of caring for her sister who was in her terminal illness. However, Eva Champlin died on July 17, 1965, before her sister, Ella Sheffield.

Eva Champlin left a will which after making provisions for the payment of her debts and funeral expenses contained a residual clause marked paragraph Second which provided as follows: "Second: I give, devise and bequeath all of the rest, residuary and remainder of my property, whether real, personal or mixed and wheresoever situate or located or over which I may have a power of disposition at the time of my death, hereinafter called my residuary estate, to my sister, Ella M. Sheffield, now of Elm Flat Road, R. F. D., Mayville, New York, to be hers absolutely."

Eva Champlin's will also named her sister, Ella Sheffield, as executrix and Ella's son, Elton Sheffield, as "alternate executor".

After Eva's death and on about July 18, 1965, Elton Sheffield and his wife Shirley Ann Sheffield moved from their home in Westfield, New York, into the home of Ella Sheffield in Mayville, New York, to continue the care of Mrs. Sheffield. On August 4, 1965, Ella Sheffield was appointed executrix of the estate of Eva Champlin.

On November 1, 1965, Ella Sheffield died. She left a will which provided for the payment of her debts and funeral expenses and left the remainder of her estate to her son Elton Sheffield, in the following clause: "Second: I give, devise and bequeath unto my son, Elton P. Sheffield, all the rest, residue and remainder of my estate, both real and personal, in any form or nature, wherever it may be situated."

Ella Sheffield's will named Elton Sheffield as executor of her estate.

Ella Sheffield was buried on November 4, 1965 and on November 5, 1965, while Shirley Ann Sheffield (Elton's wife) was driving the Rambler automobile, it became involved in a serious accident with a Pennsylvania Railroad Company train at a railroad crossing. Several passengers in the automobile were killed and others were injured. Two death actions have been instituted against the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, Shirley Ann Sheffield and the estate of Eva Champlin, which actions are still pending.

At the time of the happening of the accident on November 5, 1965 and for some time prior thereto, Elton Sheffield was the registered owner of a Pontiac automobile. The Aetna Casualty & Surety Company had issued to Elton Sheffield, its policy of insurance covering this Pontiac automobile for the period from August 24, 1965 to August 24, 1966. The 1960 Rambler automobile was being operated by Shirley Ann Sheffield with the knowledge and consent of her husband, Elton Sheffield at the time it was involved in the accident with the Pennsylvania Railroad train.

From the time Eva Champlin moved into the home of Ella Sheffield, both Elton and Shirley Ann Sheffield had used the Rambler automobile not only to do errands for Eva Champlin and Ella Sheffield, but also for their own use.

On the date of the accident, the 1960 Rambler automobile was still registered in the name of Eva Champlin.

Elton Sheffield was appointed executor of the estate of Ella Sheffield on November 15, 1965 and on November 24, 1965 he was also appointed "successor" or "alternate" executor of the estate of Eva Champlin.

Notice of the accident of November 5, 1965 was given to the Aetna Casualty & Surety Company shortly after the accident and by November 8, 1965, Aetna had started to investigate. A number of letters were written to the Aetna Casualty & Surety Company during the policy period by attorney William Fredel in behalf of Elton Sheffield and his wife Shirley Ann Sheffield. These letters in substance requested Aetna to provide coverage to Elton Sheffield and his wife Shirley Ann Sheffield, and that the company provide a defense for ...


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