Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 08/14/2023

Expired Pilot Medical Certificate Results in No Insurance Coverage in Fatal Private Plane Crash

The Seventh Circuit has held that a Wisconsin company that makes water clarification systems does not have coverage for damages and medical bills stemming from the fatal crash of a company-owned Cessna plane. David Schmutzler was the owner and president of Jadair International, Inc. Schmutzler was also a pilot with decades of experience. Tragically, in May 2020, the Cessna crashed, killing Schmutzler, who was piloting the plane. The crash was caused by a mechanical failure of the Cessna. The plane was covered under an aircraft insurance policy from American National.

Jadair filed a claim on the policy. American National denied coverage because Schmutzler did not have a current and valid medical certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration at the time of the accident. Schmutzler’s medical certificate was valid when the company applied for the policy but had expired several months before the accident. The policy unambiguously excluded coverage for any accident involving the Cessna where the pilot lacks a current FAA medical certificate: “The pilot must have a current and valid medical certificate” and “there is no coverage if the pilot does not meet” that requirement.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit held that exclusion is unambiguous and there is no dispute that Schmutzler did not have a current FAA medical certificate at the time of the accident. Jadair, therefore, does not have coverage for the accident.

The case is an important reminder that pilot medical certifications, flight requirements, and ratings must be valid and up-to-date to recover under private plane insurance policies.

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