Mineral Wells Home Owners Claim

Mineral Wells insurance attorneys probably already know about this case. It is an Eastland Court of Appeals case styled, Spurlock v Beacon Lloyds Insurance Company.
This case involves the interpretation of a homeowner’s insurance policy. The Court had to construe a policy to determine if coverage exists for a personal property loss alleged to have occurred after the death of the named insured. Kelly 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.
J.O. Spurlock owned and lived in a house in Mineral Wells, Texas, that he insured with Beacon. The policy was effective from May 31, 2008, to May 31, 2009. The “RESIDENCE PREMISES/DWELLING” listed in the declarations page of the policy was identified by the legal description of J.O. Spurlock’s house. The street address of the house was 704 Cedar in Mineral Wells. The policy provided dwelling coverage and personal property coverage.
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. Accordingly, Spurlock filed a claim with Beacon in which he sought to recover for the loss that resulted from the theft. Beacon concluded that the policy did not provide coverage for the stolen property. Therefore, Beacon denied Spurlock’s claim and Spurlock sued.
The trial court entered an order granting summary judgment to Beacon on Spurlock’s claims.
The only named insured under the policy was J.O. Spurlock. The policy provided dwelling coverage (Coverage A) and personal property coverage (Coverage B). The dwelling coverage provided that Beacon covered “the dwelling on the residence premises shown on the declarations page including structures attached to the dwelling.” The personal property coverage provided that Beacon covered “personal property owned, worn or used by an insured while on the residence premises.” Under the policy, Beacon also covered “personal property owned, worn or used by an insured anywhere in the world.”
The underlined terms in the policy were defined in the policy. The policy defined “residence premises” as “the residence premises shown on the declarations page.” The “residence premises” included “the one or two family dwelling, including other structures, and grounds, where an insured resides or intends to reside within 60 days after the effective date of this policy.” The residence premises/dwelling shown on the declarations page was identified as Lot 9-10, Block 2, Westwood Hills, which was the legal description of J.O. Spurlock’s house and property at 704 Cedar in Mineral Wells. As defined in the policy, the term “insured” meant J.O. Spurlock and “residents of his household who were his relatives; or other persons under the age of 21 and in the care of any person named above.”
The policy provided that “Beacon insured against physical loss to the property described in Coverage A (Dwelling) and Coverage B (Personal Property) caused by a peril listed below, unless the loss is excluded in Section I Exclusions.” One of the listed perils was “theft, including attempted theft and loss of property from a known place when it is likely that the property has been stolen.”
The policy contained various conditions to coverage for the dwelling and personal property. One of the conditions provided as follows:
9. Death. If the named insured dies, we insure:
a. the named insured’s spouse, if a resident of the same household at the time of death.
b. the legal representative of the deceased. However, if this legal representative was not an insured at the time of death of the named insured, this policy will apply to such legal representative only with respect to the premises of the original named insured.
c. any person who is an insured at the time of such death, while a resident of said premises.

The term “premises,” which was used in Sections 9.b. and 9.c., was not a defined term in the policy.
As stated above, the personal property coverage provided that Beacon covered “personal property owned, worn or used by an insured while on the residence premises.” Section 9.b. of the conditions provided that, upon the death of the named insured, Beacon would insure the legal representative of the deceased. However, Section 9.b. also provided that, if the legal representative was not an insured under the policy at the time of the named insured’s death, the policy would apply to the legal representative “only with respect to the premises of the original named insured.” Unlike the residency requirements set forth in Sections 9.a. and 9.c. for the named insured’s spouse and other persons who were insureds at the time of the named insured’s death, Section 9.b. did not contain a requirement that the legal representative reside at the premises to obtain coverage under the policy.
Spurlock was not an insured under the policy when J.O. Spurlock died. Therefore, under Section 9.b., the policy applied to Spurlock “only with respect to the premises of the original named insured.” The word “premises” is not defined in the policy. Under Spurlock’s interpretation of the provision, he contends that, following J.O. Spurlock’s death, the policy provided coverage for losses of personal property that occurred on the subject premises at 704 Cedar in Mineral Wells but that the policy did not provide coverage for losses of personal property that occurred off the premises. This Court concluded that, following J.O. Spurlock’s death, the policy did not provide coverage for any loss of personal property. Therefore, it disagreed with Spurlock’s contention that the policy provided coverage for losses of personal property that occurred on the subject premises.
The definition of “premises,” in relevant part in the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is “a tract of land with the buildings thereon” or “a building or part of a building usu[ally] with its appurtenances (as grounds). Similarly, “premises” is defined in relevant part by Black’s Law Dictionary as “[a] house or building, along with its grounds.”
The above dictionary definitions establish that the ordinary meaning of “premises” is a house or building and the grounds upon which the house or building is located. None of the above definitions includes “personal property” in the definition of “premises.” Accordingly, this Court concluded that the plain meaning of “premises” as used in the Beacon policy is unambiguous and does not include personal property. Based on its plain meaning, the undefined term “premises” in the Beacon policy includes J.O. Spurlock’s house and the grounds upon which it was located. The Beacon policy insured the legal representative of the named insured only with respect to the “premises” of the original named insured. Given the ordinary meaning of “premises,” this Court concluded that, upon J.O. Spurlock’s death, the policy provided dwelling coverage to Spurlock but did not provide personal property coverage to him, whether the loss of personal property occurred on or off the premises.