Stewart v. Vanguard Ins. Co.

Decision Date23 July 1980
Docket NumberNo. B-9103,B-9103
Citation603 S.W.2d 761
PartiesHarvey A. STEWART et ux., Petitioners, v. VANGUARD INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent.
CourtTexas Supreme Court

Halm, Pletcher & Hogan, Michael Y. Saunders and Stephen W. Hanks, Houston, for petitioners.

Fulbright & Jaworski, John E. Williams, Jr., Houston, for respondent.

POPE, Justice.

Vanguard Insurance Company filed this suit seeking a declaratory judgment that its policy did not cover an aircraft that crashed on February 8, 1975 at Ruidoso, New Mexico. The defendants, Harvey A. Stewart and wife, Dorothy, counterclaimed to recover their medical expenses and the damages to their Cessna 180, the plane that crashed. The trial court rendered judgment for the Stewarts upon a favorable jury verdict, but the court of civil appeals reversed the judgment and rendered judgment that the Stewarts take nothing. 593 S.W.2d 736. We affirm the judgment of the court of civil appeals.

The question presented by this appeal is whether Gerald Greak, who was the pilot in command of the Stewart's Cessna 180 at the time it crashed, had logged 10 hours as a pilot in command as the terms of Vanguard's policy required. These are the provisions:

In consideration of the premium at which this policy is issued, it is hereby agreed that Item 7. of the Declarations shall be amended to read as set forth below:

Item 7. When the aircraft is operated while in motion, insurance will be effective only when said operation is by a pilot designated below who is possessed of a current and valid pilot certificate of the kind specified with appropriate ratings and a current medical certificate, all as required by the Federal Aviation Administration for the flight involved and who meets the additional requirements set forth below:

A pilot approved by the Named Insured provided he possesses a private or commercial pilot certificate and has logged at least 750 flying hours as pilot in command which includes at least 50 hours in single engine aircraft equipped with a conventional landing gear and 10 hours in Cessna 180 aircraft.

Harvey A. Stewart owned the Cessna 180 and was the named insured in the policy he had with Vanguard Insurance Company. Stewart and his wife, Dorothy, departed the Houston Intercontinental Airport with their friends, Gerald Greak and his wife, Elizabeth, in the plane destined for Ruidoso, New Mexico. The Cessna had dual controls, and Mr. Stewart and Mr. Greak shared time during the flight as the pilot in control.

Both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Greak were experienced pilots. Mr. Stewart had several hundred hours of experience as the pilot in command of his Cessna 180, but he was not a qualified pilot because he did not have a current medical certificate. This fact is not disputed, and no contention is made that he was the pilot in command at the time of the crash.

Mr. Stewart was the pilot in control on the morning of February 8, 1975, as the plane approached the landing strip at Ruidoso, New Mexico. Stewart's approach was too high and too fast, and the plane made several violent bounces as it touched down. In the crisis, Stewart, according to the evidence, froze and was in a state of shock. Greak struck Stewart and for a short interval took control of the plane, but not in time to avoid striking a pine tree as he tried to gain altitude at the end of the runway.

The jury found on the basis of these stated facts that Greak was the pilot in command at the time of the crash and also that he had logged at least 10 hours in a Cessna 180 as pilot in command. The only question that is now presented is whether there is any evidence to support the second finding. Greak's mere presence as a passenger in that class of plane for that period of time is not our inquiry; the policy requires his logging that much time as the pilot in command.

The term "logged" 1 has an interesting origin, but it has come to mean that some kind of a record is made of an event. Marson Coal Co. v. Insurance Co., 210 S.E.2d 747 (W.Va.1974). The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, p. 842 (Unabridged ed. 1967), defines the word:

3. Naut. any of various devices for determining the speed of a vessel, as a ship log or patent log. 4. any of various records, made in rough or finished form, concerning a trip made by a vessel or aircraft and dealing with particulars of navigation, weather, engine performance, discipline, and other pertinent details; logbook. 5. Motion Pictures. an account describing or denoting each shot as it is taken, written down during production and referred to in editing the film. 6. a register of the operation of a machine. 7. a record kept during the drilling of a well, esp. of the geological formations penetrated. 8. Radio and Television. a written account of everything transmitted by a station or network . . . . . . . 11. to enter in a log; compile; amass; keep a record of: to log a day's events.

The common-sense meaning of the term is that a record, however...

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