FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, THIRD DIVISION. NO.
60-CV-14-38. HONORABLE CATHLEEN V. COMPTON, JUDGE.
Law Firm PLLC, by: Michael L. Alexander, for appellant.
Law Firm, P.A., by: Andy L. Turner and Ben C. Hall, for
VIRDEN, Judge. GLADWIN, C.J., ABRAMSON, HARRISON, KINARD, and
WHITEAKER, JJ., agree.
SUBSTITUTED OPINION ON THE GRANT OF
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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, ...