In a past
post, we reported on the case of Mr. Nicholas Gudzinski, who
was killed on August 19, 2006, when he lost control of his aircraft
after making a slow-speed pass at a low altitude. Gudzinski
had earned his Canadian private pilot's license in 1993, but
his most recent medical certificate had expired on June 1,
Gudzinski's estate submitted an insurance claim for damage
to the aircraft as a result of the crash. The aviation
insurer denied the claim, on the basis that the policy only
provided coverage to an "approved pilot ... who has the
The estate launched a lawsuit and the matter came before a
Chambers Master of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench as a
"Special Case for the opinion of the Court." The
Master ruled that the language of the policy was
ambiguous, and the policy only required the pilot to have obtained
a license to fly an aircraft without subsequent compliance with the
legislative requirements. Accordingly, the Master ruled that
the policy provided coverage.
The insurer launched an appeal and on April 26, 2011, a judge overturned the Master's ruling. The
judge ruled that a "required license" under the policy
meant that the license had to be valid.
The estate then appealed the judge's ruling. In a
unanimous decision issued on January 9, 2012, the
Alberta Court of Appeal confirmed that Mr. Gudzinski's aviation
insurance policy was not ambiguous and the insurers of his aircraft
were entitled to rely upon the exclusion that the policy
"applies only if your aircraft is flown by an approved pilot
... who has the required license ... to fly."
The Court ruled that reference to a license means (both in
ordinary speech and in law), a license in force. What Mr.
Gudzinski had was not enough. What was "required"
to let him fly was a pilot's license with an up-to-date Medical
Certificate. Since he did not have the Certificate, his
license was expired.
As stated by the court, "such a paper may be decorative or
a precious souvenir, but it is not a license."
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