Saturday, September 13, 2014

The case of the luckless pilot

By Jack Strauss / What’s the Law

Jack Strauss
Harold would have been better off if he had gotten his wings from God instead of the Civil Air Patrol.

During a routine flight with two other CAP planes, his aircraft engine began to sputter, and he had no choice but to make a forced landing over water. And while he made a perfect three-point landing, he would have been better off with water wings instead of a pilot’s wings.

After treading water for three hours, he finally succumbed to Poseidon, god of the sea, and drowned.

Tearfully, Harold’s wife applied to collect the benefits provided by her late husband’s insurance policy. It covered him for accidental death except while participating in aviation, other than as a paying passenger.

“We’re sorry,” responded the insurance carrier, “since your late husband’s death was due to participating in aviation other than as a paying passenger, his death isn’t covered by his policy.”

“That’s nonsense,” Harold’s widow protested in court. “My husband wasn’t participating in aviation when he died. The evidence is that he had been battling sea currents and not air currents for three hours before he finally drowned.”

IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE, would you permit Harold’s widow to collect under her late husband’s policy?

This is how the judge ruled: YES!

The judge held that the direct cause of Harold’s death was drowning, not aeronautics. The most that could be said for the insurance company’s position, concluded the judge, was that Harold’s plane took him to the place where he eventually drowned.

(Based on a 1946 federal district court decision.)

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