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Florida Fourth DCA rules that wrongful death claim arising from mid-air collision of two planes insured under one policy was subject to a single $1 million insurance coverage limit

On March 24, 2021, in Endurance Assurance Corp. v. Hodges, et al, No. 4D20-751, a wrongful death case involving a mid-air collision between two flight school airplanes, the Florida Fourth DCA ruled that the accident constituted one occurrence which under the applicable insurance policy, which covered both planes, limited the available insurance to $1 million. The plaintiffs in the case had argued that $2 million in coverage was available because the $1 million insurance limit should be applied separately to each plane due to a separability clause in the policy that the plaintiff contended effectively resulted in separate policies for each plane. The Fourth DCA rejected this argument, noting that the policy’s limitation of liability section contains an unambiguous qualifying clause which limits its liability “as the result of any one [o]ccurrence” to the amount “stated in the Declarations as applicable to ‘each [o]ccurrence,’” “[r]egardless of the number of . . . Aircraft to which this Policy applies.” The Fourth DCA cited Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Anderson, 756 So. 2d 29, 36 (Fla. 2000), in which the Florida Supreme Court stated that “[t]he presence of these qualifying [regardless] clauses evidences an established custom in the insurance industry as to the language used by insurers in drafting clauses where the intent is to limit liability coverage to a single amount, even though multiple insured vehicles are involved in an accident.”