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Lubbock County Hosp. Dist. v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa.

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 21424
Nos. 97-10908, 143 F.3d 239/(5th Cir., 06/24/1998)

The court holds that two endorsements to a helicopter company's aircraft liability insurance policy do not provide coverage for damages resulting from an oil spill at a hospital's helipad. The hospital contracted with the company for emergency transport services. After obtaining a jury verdict against the company for the spill, the hospital seeks a declaration that the company's insurance policy covered the damages from the fuel spill.

The court first holds that the hospital is not covered by the first endorsement, which covers claims based on the negligent operation, maintenance, or use of aircraft in air transportation. Because the hospital's claim does not concern a flight for compensation or the transport of mail, its claim does not involve an aircraft in air transportation as defined by the Federal Aviation Act. The hospital's interpretation amounts to nothing less than a rewriting of otherwise unambiguous policy language. The court also holds that the second endorsement, which adds coverage for property damage resulting from the operations of any contractor designated by the helicopter company under the endorsement, does not cover the hospital's claim. Here, the hospital's claim does not involve the operations of the helicopter company's contractors. Because the endorsements cannot reasonably be interpreted to cover the claim, it is excluded from coverage under the pollution exclusion clauses of the liability insurance policy, and the court reverses the district court.

Counsel for Plaintiff
James L. Wharton
Jones, Flygare, Brown & Wharton
1600 Civic Center Plaza, Lubbock TX 79408
(806) 765-8851

Counsel for Defendants
Fred J. Meier
Winstead, Sechrest & Minick
5400 Renaissance Tower
1201 Elm St., Dallas TX 75270
(214) 745-5400

Before Wiener and Stewart, JJ.