BETHANY WILLIAMS; STEPHEN WILLIAMS, Co-Trustees of the Jack and Cheryl Williams Revocable Living Trust, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA, a Pennsylvania corporation, Defendant-Appellee
Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California May 7, 2015.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. D.C. No. 3:12-cv-01590-AJB-WMC. Anthony J. Battaglia, District Judge, Presiding.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act
Affirming the district court's summary judgment in an ERISA action, the panel held that an insurer properly denied accidental death benefits to the insured's family because his death as a result of Deep Vein Thrombosis did not result from an " accident" as defined by the insurance policy.
David A. Shaneyfelt (argued), The Alvarez Firm, Calabasas, California, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.
Sherry L. Swieca (argued), Mark R. Attwood, and Cynthia J. Emry, Jackson Lewis LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Defendant-Appellee.
Before: Kermit V. Lipez,[*] Kim McLane Wardlaw, and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Lipez.
Kermit V. Lipez, Circuit Judge:
This case, brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (" ERISA" ), stems from the sudden death of Jack Williams as a result of Deep Vein Thrombosis (" DVT" ) shortly after he completed roughly 28 hours of air travel in a five-day period. Appellee National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania denied accidental death benefits to Williams' family on the ground that his death did not result from an " accident" under the terms of the policy. The district court accepted the insurer's interpretation of the policy and granted summary judgment for National Union. Because we agree that Williams' death did not result from an " accident" as defined by the policy, and thus was not a covered " injury," we affirm.
Jack Williams was an acclaimed horticulturist who traveled extensively in his role as the international product manager and technical support representative for Paul Ecke Ranch, Inc., a company based in Encinitas, California. In October 2010, Williams flew more than 15 hours from Los Angeles to Tokyo and shortly thereafter took three additional flights, totaling almost 13 hours, from Tokyo to several Australian cities. On the morning of October 18, Williams collapsed as he walked from his hotel to meet a colleague and was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. An autopsy report attributed his death to DVT, which had triggered a pulmonary embolism (" PE" ).
DVT is a known hazard of long flights, with the risk of developing the syndrome approximately doubling after a flight of more than four hours and continuing to rise with increased travel time and multiple flights within a short period. The blood clots that give rise to DVT occur as a result of the prolonged seated immobility that accompanies air travel, likely in combination with dehydration and underlying risk factors. A clot that breaks off and travels through the bloodstream is called an embolus, which becomes ...