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EDISON v. RELIABLE LIFE INS. CO.

June 30, 1980

Gaylene D. EDISON, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Kirk W. Edison, and Ted W. Edison, Plaintiffs,
v.
The RELIABLE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CURTIS

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff sues to recover on a policy of life insurance issued by the defendant insurance company upon the life of Kirk W. Edison who lost his life when his sport parachute failed to open while he was engaging in a sport parachuting event. There is no serious dispute as to facts, and both parties have moved for summary judgment, raising the sole issue of the applicability of certain provisions of the policy.

 The two provisions of the insurance policy relevant to this case are as follows:

 
"Section II COVERAGE
 
Subject to the conditions, limitations and exclusions of the policy, insurance granted hereunder shall apply to injury sustained by an Insured Person anywhere in the world provided that aviation coverage shall be limited to riding as a passenger (and not as a pilot or member of the crew) in any civil aircraft having a valid "Airworthiness Certificate' (as defined), or any transport type aircraft operated by the Military Airlift Command of the United States including the similar air transport service of any other country."
 
"Section IV EXCLUSIONS
 
(5) injury sustained while, or in consequence of, riding as a passenger or otherwise, in:
 
(a) any vehicle or device for aerial navigation other than as provided in Section II, Coverage;

 Plaintiff's contention appears to be that a sport parachute is not a "device for aerial navigation" and therefor injuries resulting from riding therein are not excluded from the policy. In support of this position she points out that sport parachutes are not mentioned specifically, and the language of the exclusion is ambiguous and should be interpreted most favorably for the insured.

 
"In the construction of the policy, the rules to be followed are well settled. The policy is a contract. Plain and unambiguous language must be given its plain meaning. The contract should be construed as a whole; but, in so far as open to different constructions, that most favorable to the insured must be adopted. (Citing.) However, as said in 14 R.C.L. ยง 103, p. 931, the rule "does not authorize a perversion of language, or the exercise of inventive powers for the purpose of creating an ambiguity where none exists . . . .' "

 320 F.2d at 530 (quoting Wendorff v. Missouri State Life Ins. Co., 318 Mo. 363, 1 S.W.2d 99, 57 A.L.R. 615 (1927)). See also Morgan v. Prudential Ins. Co., 86 Wash.2d 432, 545 P.2d 1193 (1976); Witherspoon v. St. Paul Fire Ins., 86 Wash.2d 641, 548 P.2d 302 (1976). But we need not concern ourselves with the intricacies of interpreting ambiguities since the language in the policy with which we are concerned is clear and unambiguous.

 We first turn our attention to the risks against which the policy insures. Section II describes the coverage as applying to "injury sustained by an Insured Person anywhere in the world provided that aviation coverage shall be limited to riding as a passenger (and not as a pilot or member of the crew) in any civil aircraft having a valid "Airworthiness Certificate'. . . ."

 "Aviation coverage" is synonymous with "aviation insurance" which is defined by Webster's Third Edition New International Dictionary Unabridged as "insurance against claims and losses arising from the ownership, maintenance or use of aircraft, hangars or airports, including damage to aircraft, personal injury and property damage." Webster defines "aircraft" *fn1" as "a weight-carrying structure for navigation of the air that is supported either by its own buoyancy or by the dynamic action of the air against its surfaces." It seems clear therefore that at the time of the accident, the insured was engaged in an activity the attendant insurable risks related to which fell within "aviation coverage" as used in the policy. The insured, then, at the time of his death was engaged in ...


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