A person killed in a plane crash on a charter flight may not be entitled to life insurance.

McLean v. Canadian Premier Life Insurance Co., [2012] B.C.J. No. 198, January 31, 2012, British Columbia Supreme Court, J.K. Bracken J.

The plaintiff applied unsuccessfully for a declaration that she was entitled to accidental death benefits under a policy of life insurance following the death of her husband.

The plaintiff sought a declaration that she was entitled to a $1,000,000.00 death benefit under a policy of life insurance. Her husband had died in a crash while on a chartered airplane which had been hired by his employer. The defendant insurer submitted that the death did not fall within the terms of coverage in the accidental death benefit provision of the policy because the plaintiff’s husband did not die as a fare paying passenger on a “common carrier”, as defined in the policy.

It was found that the words of the contract were clear and unambiguous. The flight did not fit within the definition of a “common carrier” under the policy. To be a “common carrier” a person or business entity must be able to carry passengers no matter who they may be. If the service is only available to certain passengers and not the public at large, the carrier is not a common carrier. In this case, the passengers were selected and paid for by the husband’s employer. It directed the time of departure and the destination of the flight. No members of the public had access to the flight.

This case was digested by Kim Yee and edited by David W. Pilley of Harper Grey LLP.

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