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April 2000 Vol. 15, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Leave Home Without It?

from the April, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Despite all the times weve been cautioned not to leave home without it, American Express cards might not provide all the benefits divers expect. Three years ago, Buck J. Wynne, III, left Dallas for Lighthouse Reef Resort in Belize, charging his meals, accommodations, and American Airlines ticket on his American Express gold card.

After arrival, he and his family went diving on one of the resorts boats. The dive was arranged separately and was not included in Wynnes package. During the course of the dive, Wynne lost his regulator and inhaled water, and, although the divemaster came to his assistance, he drowned.

Since the American Express gold card insures Amex card members against accidental death or dismemberment while riding on a common carrier paid for with an American Express card, Wynnes widow filed a claim with Amex. However, Amex refused payment. She sued. Amexs coverage provides that benefits are payable to the cardholder if he sustains an injury while boarding, riding as a passenger in, alighting from, or being hit by a common carrier, if he suffers a loss due to exposure, or if he disappears because of an accident on a covered trip.

In Wynnes case, however, the court ruled that the dive boat was not a common carrier: A company which maintains boats for the sole and exclusive use of its own patrons is engaged in the business of a private carrier and is not subject to rules applicable to common carriers. Therefore, the court held that the accident which resulted in Wynnes death occurred while Wynne was diving, not while he was riding as a passenger in, boarding, exiting from, or being hit by a common carrier. The U.S. District Court agreed with Amex and denied the benefits to Wynnes widow.

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