The Eighth Circuit rejected the policyholder's appeal on the ambiguity of a subsurface water exclusion. Bull v. Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 9703 (8th Cir. May 27, 2016).
Michael Bull, the insured, experienced a leak from a buried pipe beneath his garage slab. The leak caused settling and mold, including the settling and cracking of his foundation, a brick walkway, and interior walls.
Bull submitted a claim to Nationwide. Nationwide denied coverage based upon an exclusion for loss caused by "water . . . below the surface of the ground." Bull sued, arguing the exclusion was ambiguous because it should apply only to water from a natural source and not to water from a pipe. The district court disagreed, concluding on summary judgment that the exclusion's language broadly applied to water below the surface of the ground, regardless of whether the water came form a pipe.
Bull appealed. The Eighth Circuit found the exclusion unambiguous on its face. The exclusion could not be limited to naturally occurring water, as contrasted with water from a pipe, without grafting onto the phrase an unwritten, implicit limitation.
Bull nonetheless argued the language ambiguous because other courts had found the language ambiguous. The Eighth Circuit rejected this argument because the Arkansas Supreme Court had held that a disagreement between other courts over the meaning of a term did not show the term is ambiguous.
Therefore, the district court granting of summary judgment to Nationwide was affirmed.