A unit of Axa XL, a division of Axa SA, does not have to provide more than $100,000 each in coverage to two passengers who were electrocuted when their hot air balloon touched a power line, a federal appeals court said Friday, affirming a lower court. governing.
In 2015, near the end of a balloon flight operated by the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based New Horizon Balloon Team, wind and gravity combined to cause the balloon to move sideways and come into contact with a nearby power line, resulting in passengers Melyndia Davis and Robert Spencer suffers “horrendous” injuries from electric shocks, according to Friday’s ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, in THE Insurance Co. v. Melyndia Davis; Robert Spencer and Robert Fisher, d/b/a New Horizon Balloon Team, Todd Plank, d/b/a New Horizon Balloon Team, Mary Fisher.
THE̵7;s coverage provided a $1 million coverage limit applicable to non-passengers and a $100,000 limit per balloon passenger, according to the ruling.
Ms. Davis and Mr. Spencer had argued that they were outside the balloon’s basket when they were injured and therefore covered by a limit of $1 million per occurrence.
The district court in Baltimore granted the insurer summary judgment, limiting its liability to $100,000 per passenger and dismissing the plaintiffs’ bad faith claims.
It was upheld by a three-judge court panel. “Applying Pennsylvania legal principles to this situation—and assuming that Davis and Spencer were outside the balloon’s basket at the time of their injuries—they were nonetheless ‘oriented’ toward the balloon and in the process of ’emerging’ from it.
“As a result, even if Davis and Spencer were wholly or partially outside the balloon’s basket at the time of their injuries, they were ‘passengers’ under the policy” and subject to the $100,000 per passenger limit, the appellate panel said, also affirming the denial of the claim in bad faith.
Attorneys in the case had no comment or did not respond to a request for comment.