Insurance Agent Liability In Mineral Wells

Mineral Wells insurance lawyers already know about this case from the Eastland Court of Appeals. It is styled, Spurlock v. Beacon Lloyds Insurance Company.
Kelly Spurlock (Spurlock), as legal representative for the Estate of J.O. Spurlock, brought suit against Beacon to recover proceeds under a homeowner’s insurance policy for the loss of personal property that was allegedly stolen from a residence. Spurlock also named Grantham-Adkins Insurance Agency (Grantham-Adkins) as a defendant. Spurlock asserted that, if the homeowner’s insurance policy that was issued by Beacon did not provide coverage for the loss of personal property, Grantham-Adkins was negligent in failing to procure coverage for the loss. Beacon and Grantham-Adkins filed motions for summary judgment on Spurlock’s claims. The trial court granted the motions in separate orders. Spurlock appealed the trial court’s orders. This Court affirmed the Orders.
Spurlock owed and lived in a house in Mineral Wells, Texas, that was insured with Beacon through Grantham-Adkins.
J.O. Spurlock died in January 2009. Spurlock was appointed as the representative of J.O. Spurlock’s estate. In April 2009, Spurlock discovered that items of personal property had been removed from J.O. Spurlock’s house at 704 Cedar in Mineral Wells. Spurlock contended that the missing personal property items had been stolen and that the policy issued by Beacon provided coverage for the stolen personal property. Spurlock filed a claim that was denied by Beacon.
Spurlock sued Grantham-Adkins for failure to secure proper insurance coverage. A summary judgement filed by Grantham-Adkins was granted by the Court. This Court affirmed that Order.
Spurlock contended that, if the Beacon policy did not cover his claim for the theft of personal property that occurred after J.O. Spurlock’s death, then Grantham-Adkins was negligent in failing to procure insurance that would have covered the claim. The elements of a negligence claim are (1) a legal duty owed by one person to another, (2) a breach of that duty, and (3) damages proximately caused by the breach. In Texas, an insurance agent, such as Grantham- Adkins, owes the following common-law duties to a client for whom it undertakes to procure insurance: (1) to use reasonable diligence in attempting to place the requested insurance and (2) to inform the client promptly if unable to do so. A client’s request to an insurance agent for a specific type of insurance gives rise to these duties on the part of the agent.
J.O. Spurlock died on January 26, 2009. Spurlock alleged in his petition that, prior to J.O. Spurlock’s death, J.O. Spurlock requested coverage for contents from Grantham-Adkins in connection with his purchase of insurance. Spurlock also alleged that he or his representative notified Grantham-Adkins of J.O. Spurlock’s death, that he or his representative requested Grantham-Adkins to continue to provide the coverage provided by the Beacon policy, and that Grantham-Adkins never informed J.O. Spurlock or him that the Beacon policy did not provide coverage for contents upon J.O. Spurlock’s death. Spurlock further alleged that, on or about March 12, 2009, he made a claim under the Beacon policy for the damage or loss due to theft or vandalism of personal property that occurred at 704 Cedar in Mineral Wells.
The evidence showed that Stephanie Lou Cordell was J.O. Spurlock’s caretaker and lived with J.O. Spurlock before he died. Cordell claimed that she was J.O. Spurlock’s common-law wife and that she owned J.O. Spurlock’s house. In April 2009, Spurlock obtained an order from a justice of the peace evicting Cordell from the premises. Spurlock testified that he did not obtain access to J.O. Spurlock’s house until after Cordell was evicted. After the eviction, Spurlock entered the house and discovered that contents had been removed from the house. Spurlock believed that Cordell had stolen the property.
Spurlock testified that he and his friend, John Backer, contacted Grantham-Adkins after J.O. Spurlock died. Spurlock believed that he and Backer made two telephone calls to Grantham-Adkins. However, Spurlock did not know when either of the calls occurred. Spurlock said that, during the first call, he and Backer informed Grantham-Adkins that J.O. Spurlock had died and that Spurlock was in the process of being appointed as the administrator of J.O. Spurlock’s estate. Spurlock also said that he and Backer requested Grantham-Adkins to renew the Beacon policy and to change the mailing address on the policy. Spurlock testified that, during the second call, he and Backer informed Grantham-Adkins about the theft of personal property from J.O. Spurlock’s residence.
Backer stated in correspondence to Spurlock’s attorney that “Kelly Spurlock informed the Grantham-Adkins Agency about J.O.’s death and the theft in April 2009.” When asked about this statement in his deposition, Spurlock acknowledged that his first contact with Grantham-Adkins following J.O. Spurlock’s death may have occurred in April 2009, after Spurlock entered J.O. Spurlock’s house and discovered the theft.
Backer’s statement constituted summary judgment evidence that Spurlock did not contact Grantham-Adkins until after the loss occurred. During his deposition, Spurlock could only speculate as to when he contacted Grantham- Adkins. Spurlock filed an affidavit in response to Grantham-Adkins’s motion. Spurlock neither alleged in his petition nor presented summary judgment evidence that J.O. Spurlock requested coverage from Grantham-Adkins that would have covered a theft of personal property from his residence after his death.
The summary judgment evidence did not raise a fact issue on whether Spurlock requested insurance coverage from Grantham-Adkins before the theft. In the absence of such a request, Grantham-Adkins did not owe a duty to Spurlock to use reasonable diligence to obtain insurance.