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Premises Does Not Include Personal Property


The Case:

Spurlock v. Beacon Lloyds Ins. Co., 2015 Tex. App. LEXIS 818 (Tex. App.-Eastland Jan. 29, 2015, no pet. filed)

Brief Facts:

J.O. Spurlock ("J.O.") procured an insurance policy from Beacon Lloyds Insurance Company ("Beacon"). The policy provided dwelling coverage and personal property coverage. When J.O. died in January of 2009, Kelly Spurlock ("Spurlock") was appointed as the representative of J.O's estate.

In April of 2009, Spurlock discovered that items of personal property had been removed (or stolen) from J.O.'s home. Spurlock contended that the missing personal property had been stolen and that the policy issued by Beacon provided coverage for the stolen personal property.

Spurlock filed a lawsuit against Beacon, in which he sought to recover for the loss that resulted from the theft. Beacon filed a No-Evidence & Traditional Motion for Summary Judgment, which was granted by the trial court. Spurlock appealed the trial court's decision.

The Decision by the Eastland Court of Appeals:

The Eastland Court of Appeals had to interpret the following policy provision: "The legal representative of the deceased. However, if this legal representative was not an insured at the time of the death of the named insured, this policy will apply to such legal representative only with respect to the premises of the original named insured." Spurlock, who was not an insured at the time of J.O.'s death, contended that, since "premises" was not defined under the policy, the interpretation of the above stated policy provision provided coverage for losses of personal property.

The Court used the common definition or plaining meaning of "premises" and referred back to the "residence premises" definition in the policy. That definition defined "residence premises" as "the one or two family dwelling, including other structures, and grounds, where an insured resides." The Court found that the plain meaning of "premises" as used in the Beacon policy, did not include personal property.

What to Take Away:

According to the Eastland Court of Appeals, the parties to an insurance policy could have included "and personal property" so the legal representative would also have coverage for personal property. However, J.O. did not negotiate or include that when procuring the policy. This decision is in line with the Texas Supreme Court which recently affirmed "one is presumed to intend what he does or undertakes to do by the terms of a written instrument voluntarily signed by him." See Nat'l Prop. Holdings, L.P. v. Westergren,2015 Tex. LEXIS 1 (Tex. 2015).

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