The Defense Rests…in Peace
Spurlock v. Beacon Lloyds Insurance Company, __ S.W.3d __, 2015 WL 581682 (Tex. App. January 29, 2015)
Plaintiff filed numerous claims against Defendants arising out of a homeowner’s insurance policy. The Defendants included Beacon Lloyds Insurance Company (hereinafter “Defendant-Insurer”) and Grantham-Adkins Insurance Agency (hereinafter “Defendant-Agency”). J.O. Spurlock was the only named insured under the policy which was effective from May 31, 2008 to May 31, 2009. The policy provided dwelling and personal property coverage. J.O. Spurlock died in January of 2009. Plaintiff was appointed as the representative of decedent’s estate. In April of 2009, Plaintiff discovered that items of personal property were removed from decedent’s house. Plaintiff filed a claim with Defendant-Insurer for the stolen personal property which was denied. Plaintiff filed a breach of contract claim against Defendant-Insurer and a negligent procurement of insurance coverage against Defendant-Agent. The trial court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s claims following Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff appealed asserting that Defendant-Insurer’s policy provided coverage for stolen property and that Defendant-Agent was negligent in failing to procure insurance to cover the stolen property.
The Court first considered the issue asserted against Defendant-Insurer. Under the homeowner’s policy, coverage was provided to decedent for physical loss of property including property that had been stolen. The policy contained a condition addressing the death of the insured. The relevant portion of this condition extended coverage to the legal representative of the decedent-insured . However, if the legal representative was not a named insured at the time the original insured died, the policy would only apply with respect to the premises of the decedent-insured. The term premises was not specifically defined in the policy. Here, Plaintiff was not an insured under the policy. Therefore, the policy only extended to the premises of the original insured. The Court applied the ordinary meaning for the word premises which was “house or building and the grounds upon which the house or building is located.” The Court held that the ordinary meaning of the term premises was unambiguous and did not include personal property. As a result, the Court affirmed the trial court’s order of summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Insurer.
The Court also considered whether Defendant-Agent was liable for negligent procurement of insurance coverage. Plaintiff argued that Defendant-Agent was negligent as it did not notify Plaintiff that the policy would not cover the loss of personal property following the death of the insured. In order to give rise to a negligent procurement claim, the Court held that an insurance agent only has a duty to inform a client of the need to procure specific insurance after it receives a request from the client. Here, the summary judgment evidence proved that Plaintiff did not contact Defendant-Agent until after the loss occurred. Plaintiff was unable to produce any evidence that she requested any type of insurance from Defendant-Agent before the loss occurred. As the summary judgment evidence did not raise a fact issue on whether Plaintiff requested insurance from Defendant-Agent, the Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Agent.