A California insurer claimed its coverage does not include the type of helicopter that crashed on Jan. 26, 2020, killing basketball legend Kobe Bryant and eight others.
OC Helicopters was covered by an aircraft insurance policy issued by Endurance Assurance Corp. at the time of the accident. The policy contains a single limit of $10 million for bodily injury and property damage, Endurance acknowledged in a lawsuit filed last week in the Central District of California.
OC Helicopters is among the defendants named in four lawsuits filed by Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant's widow, and families of other victims. Endurance defended OC Helicopters to date, and its lawsuit asks the court for reimbursement of money spent.
The Endurance claim is simple: the Sikorsky S76B helicopter was not qualified for coverage under the policy it issued OC Helicopters. The policy had a clause for aircraft it operated but did not own. Helicopters do not fall under that clause, Endurance said.
"Because the Sikorsky is a rotorwing aircraft, it does not fall within the scope of the Non-Owned Aircraft Liability coverage provided by the Policy," the Endurance lawsuit states. "The Policy, therefore, does not provide coverage for the claims alleged against OC Helicopters in the Liability Actions."
Kobe Bryant, 41, retired in 2016 as one of the greatest NBA players of all time. The Bryants' 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also killed in the crash.
There has been plenty of blame to go around following the early morning crash in Calabasas, Calif.
Bryant’s widow blamed the pilot. She and families of other victims also sued the companies that owned and operated the helicopter. The brother of the pilot didn’t blame Bryant but said he knew the risks of flying. The helicopter companies said the weather was an act of God and blamed air traffic controllers.
The nine passengers were flying from Orange County to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura County when the helicopter encountered thick fog in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.
Pilot Ara Zobayan climbed sharply and had nearly broken through the clouds when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter banked abruptly and plunged into the Calabasas hills below, killing all nine aboard instantly before flames engulfed the wreckage.
There was no sign of mechanical failure, and it was believed to be an accident, the National Transportation Safety Board has said.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.
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