Note: This guest post is by Jamie Glass, an attorney with Merlin Law Group at our Panama City office.
The local farmers market hosts an annual fruit salad competition. The rules for this completion require that only salads consisting entirely of fruit may be admitted, in particular that "only apples, oranges, melons, grapes, cherries and other fruits may be used ." A young, excited chef wants to come in with his tomato and cucumber salad, but will she be able to? With the help of the ejusdem generis construction rule, she can!
Ejusdem generis is one of the Latin terms that are common throughout the practice of the law that sounds incredibly complicated but has a relatively simple meaning. Ejusdem generis means "of the same kind, class or nature" 1
Unlike the competition rules, insurance is often a complicated mess of coverages, exceptions and limitations, all of which are included in a range of different forms. These coverages and limitations are written as lists of specified articles with the last article as a generalized description. This generalized description often takes the form of the category preceded by the word "similar."
The largest implication of ejusdem generis in insurance is under cover B – other structures, where only these "structures on the" living premises "which are separated from the dwelling by a clear space" are covered. The policy clarifies this sentence by saying that "
Of interesting note, ejusdem generis has not been convicted in the Tennessee Court of Appeal applicable to homeowners or commercial property insurance. Any argument before an appellate court as to whether an extension cord or string of lamps is of the same type, class or nature as a fence or tool line would be a first. Hopefully, such an argument is as successful as the chef's attempt to include her tomato and cucumber salad based on the settled debate about the appropriate food group for a tomato. 8
1 Bill Wilson, When Words Collide: Resolving Insurance Coverage and Claims Disput 114 (2018).
2 Cellco Partnership d / b / a Verizon Wireless, et al. v. Shelby County, Tennessee, et al. 172 SW3d 574, 597 (Tenn. App. Ct. 2005), citing Shipley v. Sofco Erectors, Inc. Nos. 743 and 790, 1988 WL 48618, at * 6 (Tenn. Ct. App. 16 May 1988) (citations omitted).
3 City of Knoxville v Brown 260 SW2d 264, 268 (Tenn. 1953).
4 Cocke County Bd. v. Newport Utilities Bd. 690 SW2d 231, 237 (Tenn. 1985) (with reference to 17 Am.Jur.2d agreement § 270 (1964)).
5 Id.  6 When words collide 116.
8 Mark Abadi, Here's why a tomato is actually both a Fruit and Vegetable Science Alert (May 29, 2018),
https: //www.sciencealert. com / here-s-why-a-tomato-is-actually-both-a-fruit-and-vegetable.