United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Eastern Division
Producers Agriculture Insurance Company's (“Pro
Ag”) motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 24] is
lawsuit stems from a denied insurance claim and an
insured's inability to reverse that denial at binding
arbitration. The insured, plaintiff C&N Farms, is run by
business partners and co-plaintiffs Clinton Boles and Necola
Boles (collectively “C&N Farms”). Pro Ag
issued a crop insurance policy to C&N Farms providing for
reimbursement if the farm was unable to plant or grow crops
because of adverse weather conditions. This policy was issued
pursuant to federal law for farm assistance programs, most
notably the Federal Crop Insurance Act, 7 U.S.C. § 1501
et seq. See Compl., Doc. No. 1; Multiple Peril Crop
Insurance Common Crop Insurance Policy
(“Policy”), Doc. No. 1 at 8-42.
Farms alleged that adverse weather conditions prevented
planting its wheat crop. The farm filed a claim with Pro Ag
in December 2012. On May 14, 2013, Pro Ag denied the claim.
Doc. No. 24-3. The letter C&N Farms received with this
denial, however, referenced C&N Farms as located in the
wrong Arkansas county. Apparently, Pro Ag realized the error
and sent a corrected letter that same day, though C&N
Farms did not receive it. See Clinton Boles Aff.
¶¶ 4-5, Doc. No. 32-4.
March 31, 2014, Charlotte Flintje, the farm's agent, sent
additional information to Pro Ag and stated that the claim
“should be reinstated.” Doc. No. 24-4. Pro Ag
denied the request by letter dated April 28, 2014. Doc. No.
to the insurance policy, C&N Farms could dispute Pro
Ag's denial by mediation, unless the parties did not
agree to mediate, after which the dispute must go to binding
arbitration. See Policy at 35. The Policy required
arbitration be initiated within one year from the denial of a
claim or the determination in dispute, whichever is later. On
May 21, 2014, C&N Farms filed for mediation, but Pro Ag
refused. Arbitration ensued.
arbitrator issued his award on April 28, 2015, which denied
C&N Farms relief. The arbitrator determined that the
operative decision C&N Farms submitted to arbitration was
the denial of the claim for benefits, which occurred on May
14, 2013; the one-year window for initiating arbitration,
however, had closed on May 14, 2014. See Award of
Arbitrator (hereafter “Award”) 7, Doc. No. 24-6.
Therefore, the arbitrator determined that the arbitration was
untimely because C&N Farms filed the request on May 21,
2014. Id. C&N Farms disagrees with this
Farms filed suit “to recover damages arising from the
wrongful denial of crop insurance benefits.” Compl.
¶ 1. It alleges that “[d]efendants breached their
contractual obligations . . . by failing to properly and
timely pay the insurance claim, ” and after the
arbitrator denied its claim, it sought “judicial
review.” Id. ¶¶ 16, 19. These
activities, it argues, violate Arkansas law. Id.
¶¶ 21-22. Thus, they request the vacation or a
modification of the arbitrator's decision. Id.
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
249-50 (1986). Once the moving party demonstrates that there
is no genuine dispute of material fact, the non-moving party
may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials in his
pleadings. Holden v. Hirner, 663 F.3d 336, 340 (8th
Cir. 2011). Instead, the non-moving party must produce
admissible evidence demonstrating a genuine factual dispute
that must be resolved at trial. Id. Importantly,
when considering a motion for summary judgment, all
reasonable inferences must be drawn in a light most favorable
to the nonmoving party. Holland v. Sam's Club,
487 F.3d 641, 643 (8th Cir. 2007). The evidence is not
weighed and no credibility determinations are made.
Jenkins v. Winter, 540 F.3d 742, 750 (8th Cir.
Ag's motion for summary judgment is granted because
C&N Farms did not timely file for arbitration.
Consequently, there are no material factual disputes as to
whether the arbitration award should be confirmed.
Timeliness of Judicial Review
Farms seeks judicial review of the arbitrator's decision
denying its insurance claim as untimely. Pro Ag argues (a)
judicial review is unavailable because the parties'
insurance agreement premises judicial review on initiating a
proper arbitration, and since the underlying arbitration was
untimely, judicial review is unavailable; or (b) C&N