Crash and Burn: Pilots 60 Year Old Claim Just Won’t Fly

28 Jun, 2012 Bob Wilson


A pilot who was crop dusting and crashed his plane in 1953 has filed a first time claim for the injuries he received.

And I thought the wait at TSA Security was interminable.

Len Fisher was flying over the town of Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada, on June 23, 1953, when he hit a telephone wire and crashed. He shattered both ankles and was in the hospital for eight months. He claims that he had no knowledge that “such a thing” as workers' compensation existed at that time. Apparently he did not know telephone wires existed, either. He chose to file this month, almost 60 years following the accident, after a friend encouraged him to do so, and because “his bills are piling up”.

I would think so. Fisher, who is now 91 and who retired 30 years ago, would today be covered by Canada's single provider health plan, so I can only assume that the bills to which he refers would be from the original medical incident. Apparently his doctor has been waiting patiently for 60 years for his remuneration. Assuming time for medical education, residency and the like, that would make the doctor at least 120 years old. Perhaps the stubborn old bastard just won't kick until he gets his due.

At any rate, Fisher, who just found out that there is a benefit he missed, says he now wants to get what's owed to him.  He says he received reduced wages during the 8 months he was in recovery, and has filed for benefits from the Workers' Compensation Board of Manitoba. To prove his case, he has collected photos of the crash, a copy of a newspaper story the day after and his hospital bill. I suppose at the very minimum he will be able to prove that this was not one of his best days flying. (Look Ma, I crashed a plane!)

The Workers' Compensation Board of Manitoba says it is considering the case. Their first step is to confirm that the aviation company Fisher worked for was covered by the board in 1953. I would think the second step would be to make sure that Manitoba actually had an airplane in 1953. We now know they had a phone, or at least they did until June 23, 1953.

Canada's Workers' Compensation Act provides a one year statute of limitations for claims to be filed, but an official acknowledged that “In exceptional circumstances we can expand that time frame”.

In this case, that is some expansion.

If you read a little more deeply into the story, you will find that the bills to which Mr. Fisher allude are really insurance and property tax bills, not at all related to the accident. While this shatters the image of the 120 year old Marcus Welby that has coalesced in my mind, we have to realize that this is a case of someone who needs money and has just discovered a potential source for same.

It is noted that he now uses a cane, and cannot stand on his feet for any length of time. The allusion is that this may be due in part to his 60 year old injuries, and that otherwise this is a very rare condition in 91 year old men.

This may shock you, but I think this claim is a stretch; not for lack of compensability from the injury event, but merely the incredible time that has been allowed to elapse. A Winnipeg lawyer, Christopher Donaldson, who specializes in "labour and employment law” (if not spelling in the US vernacular), said Fisher must be able to prove an injustice for the lapse to be overlooked. And while ignorance might in itself be a form of injustice, it does not, in my opinion justify overlooking a 60 year lapse since the accident.

As far as I am concerned, Mr. Fisher's plane isn't the only thing that just won't fly.


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