BEAM, Circuit Judge.
Appellant Church Mutual Insurance Company (Church Mutual) appeals from a final judgment entered by the district court
Church Mutual insured Agape's property during a policy period extending from April 3, 1996, to April 3, 1999. After Agape was advised at a Christian Law Association seminar to reevaluate the adequacy of its insurance coverage, Church Mutual's agent, Bruce West, met with Agape's Pastor James Clemensen on April
Fire damaged a school operated by Agape on June 6, 1998, and Agape's personal property was destroyed by the fire. Agape claimed a loss of personal property in the amount of $186,339.66. However, Church Mutual limited Agape's recovery to $92,800, pursuant to an endorsement that was effective as of May 20, 1998, but delivered to Agape after the fire. Agape subsequently brought a contract action against Church Mutual to recover purportedly insured losses, alleging, among other things, that Church Mutual breached the insurance contract and that it vexatiously refused to pay policy proceeds. In its complaint, Agape alleged that Church Mutual "at all time[s] mentioned herein, regularly conducted its customary insurance business by and through its agent BRUCE WEST," and that "West solicited insurance business for [Church Mutual] and regularly advertised he was an agent of [Church Mutual]; and, West had actual, apparent or ostensible authority from [Church Mutual] to issue insurance contract binders of insurance and insurance policy endorsements on behalf of [Church Mutual]." Agape further alleged that, when the policy was issued, Church Mutual improperly set the personal property coverage limit at "$92,800[.00] instead of at $350,000.00 as agreed."
The case was tried to a jury. In its supplemental trial brief, Agape revealed that it was basing its claim on an oral agreement made by agent West with Clemensen, to increase the policy's contents limit to $300,000. Because the district court apparently determined that during discovery Agape had not adequately disclosed information concerning West's oral statements, it excluded a good deal of testimony regarding such communications. However, testimony was received, to some degree, in response to Church Mutual's cross-examination, alluding to the oral agreement and Clemensen's belief that he had increased coverage to $300,000.
Included in the jury instructions was "Jury Instruction No. 8," which states:
The form and language of jury instructions are committed to the district court's sound discretion so long as the jury is correctly instructed on the substantive issues of the case. Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corp. v. Beelman River Terminals, Inc., 254 F.3d 706, 711 (8th Cir.2001). The substance of jury instructions in diversity cases is governed by applicable state law. Id. In such cases, "the jury instructions, when read as a whole, must fairly and adequately present the relevant state law." Id.
"A litigant is entitled to have the jury charged concerning his theory of the case if there is any evidence to support the claim, direct or circumstantial." Strudl v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 536 F.2d 242, 246 (8th Cir.1976). Also, "in determining whether the evidence is sufficient to support the giving of a particular instruction, the evidence should be considered in the light most favorable to the party offering the instruction, giving it `the benefit of all favorable inferences reasonably deducible therefrom.'" Hallberg v. Brasher, 679 F.2d 751, 757 n. 6 (8th Cir. 1982) (quoting Underwood v. Crosby, 447 S.W.2d 566, 570 (Mo.1969) (en banc)).
Under Missouri law, "an insurance company is bound by the acts of an agent acting within the scope of his apparent authority, or within the powers which it held out the agent as possessing, unless the limitations upon the agent's powers are known by or brought to the notice of the insured." Voss v. American Mut. Liab. Ins. Co., 341 S.W.2d 270, 276 (Mo.App. 1960). Also, "in the absence of any evidence that an applicant had knowledge or was put on notice of ... restrictions [on the agent's authority], the applicant is not bound by them, and is entitled to rely and act upon the agent's apparent and ostensible powers." Id.
Missouri case law indicates that contracts of insurance "may be verbal or in writing, or partly in writing and partly verbal," so long as "the minds of the parties shall have met on all the essential terms of the contract." Chailland v. M.F.A. Mut. Ins. Co., 375 S.W.2d 78, 81 (Mo.1964) (en banc). "`[W]here the minds of the parties for a valuable consideration have met on all the terms of the contract, it is complete and enforceable, although it was intended by the parties to be evidenced by a policy which, because of some fortuity, was not delivered before the happening of the event insured against.'" Id. (citation omitted). Elements of an oral contract under Missouri law include the subject matter, the risk insured against, the amount, the duration of the risk, and the premium. Id. However, "[i]t is not essential that all of these elements of the contract be expressly agreed upon if the intention of the parties to the contract in these particulars can be gathered from the circumstances of the case." Id. Furthermore, "[a]n oral contract of insurance is binding, although the premium is not to be paid at the time of its consummation if credit is given." Id.
The present matter does not implicate a purely oral agreement, but instead involves a claimed insurance contract that was "partly in writing and partly verbal." See id. At trial, the following colloquy between Church Mutual's counsel and Clemensen occurred:
Furthermore, Agape read into evidence Church Mutual's admission, found within the pleadings, that West "had actual, apparent or ostensible authority from insured's company to issue insurance contract binders of insurance and ... insurance policy endorsements on behalf of insurance company." Also read into evidence was Church Mutual's admission that "it issued policy number 0151217-02-449714 to Agape Baptist Church and Boarding School; that Bruce West had inspected this property and that an increase in coverage was requested and approved shortly before the fire." The subject matter of the policy was divulged to the jury in Agape's reading of portions of the written contract. For instance, Agape's counsel read the following:
Evidence also indicated that Church Mutual would "pay for direct physical loss of or damage to covered property at the premises ... caused by or resulting from any covered cause of loss." On cross-examination, Church Mutual elicited testimony from Clemensen that, at the time of trial, Agape was continuing to pay Church Mutual policy premiums.
At trial, many attempts to elicit testimony regarding Clemensen's dealings with Church Mutual's agent West were thwarted. However, paramount to the ultimate result is Church Mutual's admission in its answer "that it issued Policy No. 0151217-02-449714 to Agape Baptist Church and Boarding School, that Bruce West had inspected the property, and that an increase in coverage was requested and approved shortly before the fire." Church Mutual merely denied the amount of coverage agreed upon. We are, consequently, left to determine not whether there was sufficient evidence of an agreement to increase the amount of coverage, but what the evidence was as to the amount of the increase.
As earlier noted, we find that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the $300,000 damages ceiling in Jury Instruction No. 8. The policy's written terms indicated that there was a personal property limit of insurance of $92,800. However, at trial, Clemensen testified that he thought that figure was wrong, and answered affirmatively when asked "[t]hat number should have been the [$]300,000 that you agreed to with Mr. West?" Clemensen testified that when West left their April 22, 1998, meeting, it was his understanding that the minimum amount of personal property blanket coverage would be "[a]t least [$]300,000" based on an inventory list of personal property items and accompanying fair market values and costs, and on his "agreements with Mr. West." He also testified that the increase in coverage was to have become effective immediately after April 22, 1998, pursuant to their agreement, and that the increased coverage was for at least $300,000 for the blanket personal property.
Giving Agape the benefit of all favorable inferences deducible from the evidence, we find that Jury Instruction No. 8 was sufficiently supported. Agape was therefore entitled to have the jury charged concerning its theory of the coverage increase to $300,000. Thus, we conclude that the district court did not err in submitting the instruction and affirm.