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Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Arkansas, Inc v. Hopkins

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

March 7, 2018

FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF ARKANSAS, INC., APPELLANT
v.
RANDY HOPKINS, APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NINTH DIVISION [NO. 60CV-15-2990] HONORABLE MARY SPENCER MCGOWAN, JUDGE

          Turner Law Firm, P.A., by: Andy L. Turner, for appellant Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Arkansas, Inc.

          Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC, by: Steven W. Quattlebaum, Sarah Keith-Bolden, R. Ryan Younger, and Justice J. Brooks I, for appellee Randy Hopkins.

          Scott M. Strauss and Breana Ott Mackey, for appellee Chris Lane.

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge.

         Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Arkansas, Inc. (Farm Bureau), appeals the Pulaski County Circuit Court's order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Randy Hopkins. We reverse and remand.

         I. Factual History

         In June 2015, Randy Hopkins's hunting lodge, a manufactured home insured by Farm Bureau for up to $160, 000 in damage recovery, collapsed into the Arkansas River.[1]

          Farm Bureau hired engineer Aubrey Harris to assist in its investigation of the loss. In his written report Harris determined that

the high velocity and flow volume of the Arkansas River caused severe erosion of the river bank in front of the manufactured home. This erosion undercut the foundation of the manufactured home and caused the foundation and concrete slab, concrete block walls, and the front section of the manufactured home to fall into the river.

         Farm Bureau denied Hopkins's claim on the ground that collapse caused by the erosion of the ground in front of the structure and under the foundation is not one of the nine "named perils" for which the policy provides coverage. The section of the policy entitled "PERILS WE INSURE AGAINST"[2] sets forth the conditions under which collapse of a building is covered by the policy:

8. Collapse of buildings or any part of a building. Collapse does not include settling, cracking, shrinkage, bulging, or expansion. This peril is limited to damage caused by:
a.a named peril insured against in the policy; or
b.the weight of contents, equipment, animals, or people; or
c.the weight of rain, ice, snow, or sleet on a roof
. . . .
PLEASE NOTE: The peril "Collapse of Buildings" may be excluded and not apply to some of the farm building(s) and/or farm building contents insured on your policy. Please check your latest policy Declaration to determine if coverage is excluded.

(Emphasis in the original.)

          On July 6, 2015, Farm Bureau filed a complaint for declaratory judgment requesting that the circuit court declare that Hopkins's insurance policy does not cover his loss. Farm Bureau asserted that although "collapse" is the eighth of the nine named perils covered by the insurance policy, it denied Hopkins's claim based on the clear language in the policy that limits the collapse coverage to damage caused by "a. a named peril insured against in the policy; or b. the weight of contents, equipment, animals, or people; or c. the weight of rain, ice, snow, or sleet on a roof." None of these causes were the cause of the collapse; thus, Farm Bureau argued, the loss was not covered by the policy. [3] Alternatively, Farm Bureau argued that exclusions in the policy preclude coverage of certain water-damage related loss. The policy sets forth that

we do not cover loss resulting directly or indirectly from the following causes, and such loss is excluded regardless of any other cause or event contributing ...

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