Saturday, February 4, 2012

$1-million insurance policy won't go to widow of plane crash victim, court rules

A judge has found a widow cannot collect the full value of her husband's $1-million life insurance policy after he died in a plane crash on Vancouver Island more than three years ago.

The judge ruled that Debra Lucile McLean was only entitled to the $25,000 she had already received under the general terms of the policy.

McLean went to court seeking a declaration that she is entitled to an accidental death benefit of $1 million under a policy purchased in 2007.

Her husband, Mark McLean of Comox, was killed in a plane crash on Aug. 3, 2008, along with four others, including the pilot.

McLean and three others were Seas-pan employees aboard an amphibious Grumman Goose plane flying from Port Hardy to Chamiss Bay, where they were to load logs onto a barge for transport.

The plane crashed into a mountain 10 minutes after takeoff, just north of Port Alice.

McLean was insured under life insurance issued by the defendant, Canadian Premier Life Insurance Company, through Sears Canada Inc.

The insurance company acknowledged the policy was valid but argued that the circumstances of McLean's death did not fall within the accidental death benefit provisions of the policy.

At issue was the plaintiff having to establish that her husband died as a direct result of a plane crash while he was a "fare-paying passenger" in a "common carrier."

The key issue was whether the plane Mark McLean was a passenger in at the time of his death was a "common carrier" as defined in the policy.

The trial judge, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Keith Bracken, found the term means "a public conveyance such as an aircraft, provided at the time of the accident it was operating on a regular scheduled passenger service between defined points and available to members of the public."

The judge added: "In this case, the aircraft was not operating as a regularly scheduled airline and was instead under a charter restricted to employees or contractors of Seaspan.

"It was a flight where Seaspan deter-mined who the passengers were, the time of the flight and its destination. Thus, it did not fit within the definition of 'common carrier' under the accidental death benefit rider."

The judge concluded "that the tragic loss of Mr. McLean did not occur within the terms of the accidental death benefit rider and the plaintiff is entitled only to the benefit of $25,000 under the general terms of the policy that she has already received."

The full judgment is online: http://bit.ly/wjIjt8

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