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U.S. Specialty Insurance Co. v. Estate of Ward

Supreme Court of Montana

March 26, 2019

U.S. SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant,
v.
THE ESTATE OF DARRELL L. WARD and THE ESTATE OF MARK MELOTZ, Defendants. THE ESTATE OF DARRELL L. WARD, Counter-Claimant,
v.
U.S. SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Counter-Defendant.

          Submitted on Briefs: December 19, 2018

          Certified Question, United Stated District Court, In and For the District of Montana, Cause No. CV 17-132-M-DLC Honorable Dana L. Christensen, Presiding Judge

          For Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant: Randall G. Nelson, Nelson Law Firm, P.C., Billings, Montana

          For Defendant and Counter-Claimant Estate of Darrell L. Ward: Cory R. Laird, Robert T. Bell, Reep, Bell, Laird & Jasper, P.C., Missoula, Montana

          For Defendant Estate of Mark Melotz: Timothy E. Dailey, Milodragovich, Dale & Steinbrenner, P.C., Missoula, Montana

          For Amicus Curiae Aviation Insurance Association: James E. Ramsey, Cooling & Herbers, P.C., Kansas City, Missouri Jacqueline T. Lenmark, Keller Law Firm, P.C., Helena, Montana

          BETH BAKER, JUSTICE.

         ¶1 The United States District Court for the District of Montana certified a question to this Court to address the Estate of Darrell L. Ward's third-party claim to stacked liability limits in an aircraft insurance policy that covered multiple aircraft. We accepted the question and have reformulated it pursuant to M. R. App. P. 15(4) as follows:

Is the Estate of Darrell L. Ward entitled to stack the limits of liability coverage for three separate aircraft under the terms of an insurance policy issued to the pilot of an aircraft in which Ward was a passenger at the time it crashed?

         ¶2 We conclude that the answer to the reformulated question is no.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 Mark Melotz was piloting his aircraft, FAA Number N9936T, with Darrell Ward as a passenger. The plane crashed, and both Melotz and Ward were killed. At the time of the accident, Melotz insured N9936T and two other aircraft under one insurance policy issued by U.S. Specialty Insurance Company ("USSIC"). Melotz paid a separate premium for each aircraft.

         ¶4 The policy's applicable coverage provision provides as follows:

1. What We Cover
We will pay damages you, and anyone we protect, are legally required to pay for bodily injury or property damage caused by an occurrence ...

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