Court Affirms No Benefits for Death of Unlicensed, Intoxicated Teenage Driver

March 16, 2009 ( - The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed an accidental death plan's decision, and a lower court's ruling, that a plan participant is not due benefits for the death of her son in a car crash.

According to the court opinion, the 15-year-old boy was unlicensed and intoxicated when he was trying to evade police, leading them on a high-speed chase in a stolen vehicle.   The plan determined that the boy’s death was not an accident because a reasonable person could not expect to come out of that situation unscathed.

The mother argued, with a statement from a psychiatrist, that her son’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dysthymic disorder (a type of depression) caused him to not fully comprehend or appreciate the dangers of what he was doing. The court pointed out that, even if it accepted that argument, she would not be due benefits because the plan excludes from coverage losses caused by or resulting from mental illness.

The opinion in Pankiw v. Federal Insurance Co. is here .