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Bishop v. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Arkansas, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

March 9, 2016

INDIA BISHOP, APPELLANT
v.
FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF ARKANSAS, INC., APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, THIRD DIVISION. NO. 60-CV-14-38. HONORABLE CATHLEEN V. COMPTON, JUDGE.

         Barber Law Firm PLLC, by: Michael L. Alexander, for appellant.

         Turner Law Firm, P.A., by: Andy L. Turner and Ben C. Hall, for appellee.

         BART F. VIRDEN, Judge. GLADWIN, C.J., ABRAMSON, HARRISON, KINARD, and WHITEAKER, JJ., agree.

          OPINION

Page 212

          SUBSTITUTED OPINION ON THE GRANT OF REHEARING

         BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

         India Bishop appeals the Pulaski County Circuit Court order awarding summary judgment to Farm Bureau Insurance Company of Arkansas, Inc. We reverse and remand for the entry of judgment consistent with this opinion.

         I. Facts

         On March 11, 2011, Ronnie Wardlaw decided to burn the grass in a ditch located near the northwest corner of the 175-acre property owned by his ex-wife, India Bishop. Wardlaw lost control of the fire, and it spread onto neighboring property owned by Charlotte Hardin. The fire destroyed Bishop's commercial property, which Bishop rented to a tenant who operated a business (Lavender Bar) in the building. The fire also destroyed a building owned by Hardin and rented by Troy Guthrey for his business, American Tire & Truck.[1] At the time of the fire, India Bishop held a current homeowner's insurance policy issued by Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Arkansas, Inc. (" Farm Bureau" ). The declaration page of the policy listed 310 Lavender Lane in Pine Bluff, Bishop's home, as the insured property.

         Hardin and Guthrey filed a negligence suit against Bishop and Wardlaw. Farm Bureau subsequently filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against Bishop, Hardin, Guthrey, and Wardlaw. In the declaratory action, Farm Bureau stated that the policy did not cover damage stemming from any incident that occurred away from Bishop's residence premises, and that the policy's personal-liability coverage was specifically limited to incidents occurring within five acres of the residence premises listed on the declarations page; therefore, Farm Bureau requested that the circuit court declare that it owed no duty under the insurance policy to defend or indemnify Bishop or Wardlaw for any losses claimed by Hardin or Guthrey.

Page 213

          Bishop filed a separate answer in which she requested that the declaratory action be dismissed. In her answer Bishop stated that the policy contained ambiguous terms, and the ambiguity precluded Farm Bureau from denying coverage. Farm Bureau followed up its declaratory action by filing a motion for summary judgment against Bishop on July 30, 2014. Bishop filed her response to the motion for summary judgment on August 19, 2014.

          A hearing on the matter was held on October 16, 2014. At the hearing, Farm Bureau argued that the policy did not cover the fire damage because the fire began at a location on Bishop's property that was not covered by the policy. Farm Bureau also argued that even if the property where the fire started was covered by the policy, ...


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