Insurance Coverage

Mr. Morse has handled numerous cases for insurance coverage to establish the absence of coverage or a limitation on coverage for a particular claim. In many of these cases he commenced and prosecuted a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment to obtain a decree from the Court in favor of the insurer. Some of these matters are set forth below.

  • A pilot with no instrument rating took off when the weather conditions were below minimums for visual flight, resulting in a fatal crash and destruction of the aircraft. The policy provided that no coverage was provided unless the pilot was currently rated for the flight involved. The insured’s estate contended that this policy provision was unenforceable because California law does not permit enforcement of a policy exclusion based on violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations. The insurer prevailed on the ground that such exclusions are enforceable when based on a prohibited use of the aircraft which exists at the commencement of the flight, even if such use is also a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations.
  • A flight instructor was injured when the aircraft owned by the student pilot crashed shortly after takeoff. The instructor sued the student and the student sued the instructor. The insurance policy covering the operation of the aircraft excluded coverage for claims brought by one insured against another insured, and also excluded in flight coverage where the pilot was not currently rated for the flight involved. The Court found that there was no liability coverage for either the flight instructor’s claim or the student pilot’s claim. The flight instructor’s claim was barred because the pilot excluded coverage in favor of another insured, i.e. the owner/student pilot. The student pilot’s claim was barred because the only person who could be covered was the flight instructor who was therefore an additional insured under the policy—hence, coverage for this claim was barred.
  • Following a two hour night training flight, a rented Beech Musketeer crashed during a landing approach to the home airport, resulting in serious injuries to the student and the flight instructor. The aircraft insurance policy excluded coverage where the flight instructor did not have the required flight experience in the aircraft and was not named as an insured pilot, and also excluded coverage where the renter pilot allowed another person to operate the controls in flight. On the afternoon of the night flight flight, the flight instructor provided to the insured’s insurance broker a pilot questionnaire asking that the instructor be covered to provide flight instruction, and with no disclosure that the flight was to take place that day. The night instruction flight took place without incident; the flight instructor and the student spent an overnight at a different airport and the accident occurred during the short flight to return the aircraft to home base. After the student pilot sued the flight instructor and the owner of the aircraft, the insurance company commenced a civil action requesting the Court to enter a Declaratory Judgment Action establishing that the insurer had no duty to defend or indemnify either the flight instructor or the owner for any claims arising out of the accident. Following an all day trial, the Court found in favor of the insurer.