Mercy Flight Lawsuit, Pt. 2

I originally made a short post on this topic because I thought it was interesting that the Tribune put the Benefis crash lawsuit on the front page but relegated the MEIC lawsuit to a back page of the Montana Section. Since the post engendered some comments, and because I actually live for comments on my blog (see the: "Get a Life" portion of my profile) I will make a complete ass of myself (again) and discuss this topic further even though I know very little of the facts and probably even less of the law. Well, actually, that's not true. I actually do sort of know the law, but the facts are still a little smudgy.

What is insurance? Why do you pay your premiums? Um...Let's see, not all at once. Ok, you in the front row of the Tribune's story chat. Tell me about insurance.

"As if the survivors haven't suffered enough! I'm sure the loved ones who were killed at least felt good about having life accident insurance in case something did happen to them. I know when I have flown and purchased life insurance specifically in case of an accident, I felt very good knowing my surviving family would at least reap something good from by death."

Well, ok. But are we really sure this was life insurance? And even if it was, insurance is a contract, right? They are paid to insure certain risks. If you accepted premiums in exchange for a promise to pay benefits on death, do you think you might charge a higher premium if the person was engaged in an occupation that was more likely to lead to death? Like mountain climbing guide? Or fireman? Or pilot?

Or maybe not. Maybe instead of charging a higher premium to climbing guides, you might just charge them the same premium as anyone else, but tell them that if they die climbing a mountain, they don't get the benefit. If they want mountain climbing insurance, then they can buy that separately, right? Pay a little more for the higher risk? What's that? You at the Tribune...

"I'm proud of Darcy and Paul's family in their determination to keep AFLAC accountable."

Yes, but...

"Aflac refuses to uphold the ethical and common sense standards which are supposed to guide Aflac’s business. Is Aflac proud in the cases of Dengel & Erickson?"

Wait a minute. What is this accountability and ethics stuff? Isn't this a contract? If you made a contract wouldn't you be entitled to enforce it? Imagine you sold a car to an airman. Pretend he still owes you $10,000.00. Then he gets killed rescuing hostages in Iraq. Does he still owe you the money, even though he is a great guy and a hero? Leave the emotion out of this. It's a commercial transaction.

"We have people who lost their lives trying to help others and their loved ones can't be compensated for that??? I'm sure when Paul & Darcy signed those policies they believed they would be covered during a flight - otherwise as a flight crew member why would they sign it if it wouldn't pay?? I hope that everyone else on the flight team at Benefis cancels their policies and finds a real life insurance company."

Well, Paul and Darcy's heirs have a little advantage. It's called reasonable expectations. If the Court or the jury finds that they had a reasonable expectation they were covered, and that the exclusion is not clear, they'll recover their benefits.

But have you priced Aflac insurance lately? It's kind of a cheap, filler product. They are not in the business of writing aviation life insurance.

I mean, come on. Let's be honest here. What we have is a plaintiff's attorney with a (pretty good) legal theory who he thinks he can persuade a judge or jury. I truly believe that if you are intellectually honest and read the policy language in a vacuum that does not include Mercy Flight deaths, you're not going to be thinking they intended to cover people who fly for a living. And I'm betting they did not charge a premium that covered the risk that these people would spend an inordinate amount of time in a small aircraft in Montana skies.

If Pinski wins, good for him. He will, no doubt, be well compensated. But I hope you're not as naïve as the Tribune chatroom folks who think these people should recover just because the decedents were good people.

Oh yeah. And why do you think it is that the Tribune didn't ask the obvious question? What kind of life insurance did Benefis, who put these folks in the air, offer them? What kind of death benefit did Benefis pay? After all, it is Benefis who benefited from their willingness to fly, not $5.00 a week Aflac.


Anonymous said...

Yahoo! Great analysis. Thanks immensely!

My "feelings" were 1) all the right questions were not being asked and 2) the paper seemed to have clearly left out many facts.

Yep...this is another place to get the news with fair and balanced analyis.

Anonymous said...

I am a policy holder of this very plan that is being discussed. It is an accident policy with accidental death benefits. It is not strictly a life policy. Being said, before anyone can become their own judge and jury, obtain a copy of the brochure and read the section that states "What is NOT covered". Once you have done this you will see that the media involved in this story has not reported the whole story.

Treasure State Jew said...


Think about it. If you were the editor of the Trib, ultimately with the job of putting out a newspaper that sells papers and ads, and if had to choose between the following two front page stories, which would you run on page one and which would you run on page 8?

1) Evil Insurance Company Blocks Payment to Heroic Nurses Killed in the Line of Duty, or (watch those papers fly out of the news box)

2) Government Watchdog Group Accuses Local Government of Withholding Access to Documents (call the recycling center, we will have lots of extra papers to dispose of today)

I would make the same choice. #2 is a much more important story. However, it has so little sizzle that I would call it refrigerated.

free thought said...

Wow. Lots of analysis based on supposition and guesses. Maybe you should wait until you find out what the entire contract says, what the intent of it was, and what the expectations were.

Treasure State Jew said...

And all these comments validate why the story is on page 1. Whether or not they should, people care about this story. Not too hard to see why.

GeeGuy said...

Hey, Free Thought. I think this qualifies as a disclaimer: "I will make a complete ass of myself (again) and discuss this topic further even though I know very little of the facts and probably even less of the law. Well, actually, that's not true. I actually do sort of know the law, but the facts are still a little smudgy."

And TSJ, I don't doubt the story sells papers. But I thought these folks were oh so above it all. (I am not sure how to say journalist with an elitist accent...jahwnalist?)

free thought said...

GeeGuy, I saw the disclaimer. My suggestion was the same regardless. Disclaimers like that are kinda like saying "no offense" before you proceed to offend someone.