On January 26, 2024, the Alaska Supreme Court reviewed the superior court ruling regarding an insurance policy exclusion which excluded coverage for “bodily injury… [a]rising out of … the ownership, maintenance, use, loading or unloading of… an ‘aircraft.’” The injury at issue arose when the plaintiff was pushing a 1946 Piper PA-12 airplane in 2019. The Piper had been purchased by the plaintiff’s husband in 2011 and had not flown since it failed an inspection in 2014. The plaintiff’s husband had begun to repair a fabric covering which had led to the inspection failure and had removed the plane’s wings, tail rudder, and elevators from the fuselage. The rest of the fuselage was intact, as well as many other parts of the Piper. The Piper was insured under an aircraft owner-specific policy and was registered as an aircraft with the FAA.

The issue the court reviewed was whether the plaintiff’s injury from pushing the Piper arose out of the ownership and maintenance of an “aircraft,” which would preclude coverage under the above exclusion. The court found “as USAA argues, a reasonable person would understand that the terms of the policy exclude bodily injury ‘that has a causal connection to the possession and control over (ownership [of]) an airplane.’” The court also determined that the plain language of the exclusion was clear and that it would be unreasonable to limit the exclusion to when an aircraft was fully assembled and operable. The court found that “to conclude otherwise would ignore the policy’s exclusion of coverage for bodily injury arising out of maintenance of an aircraft.” The court further held that it would be unreasonable of a lay insured to assume that the exclusion no longer applied solely because the aircraft had been partially disassembled and was no longer fully intact. The superior court’s rulings were affirmed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Soha & Lang, P.S., or its clients.