Life Insurance “Pilot Exclusion”

Grand Praire life insurance attorneys and those in Dallas. Garland, Mesquite, Richardson, and other places in Dallas County need to understand one of the exclusions found in almost all life insurance policies. That is the “Pilot Exclusion.”
The Texarkana Court of Appeals issued an opinion in 1989, in the case styled, “American Home Assurance Company v. Loretta Anne Brandt.”
Here are some of the facts:
On January 24, 1982, a twin-engine Cessna 402 aircraft crashed during an attempted landing in Laredo, Texas, killing all seven people aboard. When the plane crashed, Myers occupied the left pilot’s seat; Robert Brandt occupied the right pilot’s seat. The purpose of the flight was pleasure–a shopping trip to Mexico. Myers’ aircraft was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as requiring a crew of one, the pilot. Myers met FAA regulations to fly his aircraft without supervision and could legally carry passengers. Dow Chemical Company employed Brandt as a pilot. Dow Chemical held a life insurance policy for the benefit of its employees, through American Home. After the crash, American Home contended that Robert Brandt was acting as a pilot or crew member during the flight and was thus excluded from coverage by the following policy provision: “LIMITED AIR TRAVEL COVERAGE: Insurance provided under the policy includes riding as a passenger, but not as a pilot or crew member in, including boarding or alighting from, or being struck by, any aircraft.”
At trial, there was little evidence with regard to who performed what duties in the cockpit of the airplane, partly because those in the plane were killed and not able to tell about it. Through various exhibits, Loretta showed that Myers owned the airplane and operated it and that he occupied the left, or pilot’s, seat at the time the plane crashed. She showed that Robert Brandt could not legally act as a flight instructor. Loretta Brandt also introduced a report filed by the National Transportation Safety Board, which reflected that Robert Brandt was the pilot in command, although this designation was apparently a result of the fact that Robert Brandt was a more highly qualified and experienced pilot than was Vernon Myers. In addition to the documentary evidence, Loretta Brandt called an expert witness, Hughes A. Moorer, Jr., a flight instructor, who testified with regard to various matters within his expertise, including custom, the fact that the pilot of the plane occupies the left seat in the cockpit, and that the plane involved would not normally have any crew members other than the pilot. Based upon his expertise and review of documents related to the investigation, Moorer opined that at the time of the disaster Robert Brandt was not acting as pilot or a crew member, but was a passenger in the plane. American Home chose not to produce any evidence other than a report from the Federal Aviation Administration concerning the qualifications of Robert Brandt as a pilot, but rather relied upon the notation in the National Transportation Safety Board’s report that Robert Brandt was pilot in command.
In this case, the jury found in favor of the pilot exclusion not applying to the facts. However, this appeals court sent the case back to the trial court for a new trial based on their opinion that some technical issues were not properly presented to the jury.
The relevance of this case is in illustrating that there is a pilot exclusion and how it works. When someone is presented with a situation wherein the insurance company denies coverage due to the pilot exclusion, it is vital that an experienced Insurance Law Attorney be consulted early in the case.
In this case, suit was filed on the life insurance policy; American Home pled an exception or exclusion to the coverage offered under the policy. This exclusion is allowed by Texas Insurance Code, Section 1101.055.
Once an insurer pleads an exception to the insurance policy coverage, the burden then shifts to the insured to show that the occurrence did not fall within the exception or exclusion of the policy.