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April 25, 2012

Actions by Insured against Insurer – Limitation Period not always Certain

Shaver v. Co-operators General Insurance Co. [2011] AJ No. 1411

Mr. Shaver was injured in a three vehicle accident on July 14, 2000 with one other identified driver. The Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund accepted liability for the accident and consented to a partial judgement in Mr. Shaver’s favour for $100,000.00. This judgement was entered on January 19, 2010.

Mr. Shaver found this compensation to be inadequate and issued a claim against his insurer, the Co-operators, on July 29, 2010 based on the SEF 44 endorsement in his policy:

Every action...against the insurer...under this endorsement shall be commenced [within 2 years] from the date upon which the eligible claimant...knew or ought to have known that the quantum of the claims with respect to an insured person exceed the minimum limits for motor vehicle liability insurance in the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred.

The Co-operators brought a summary judgment motion in Alberta arguing that Mr. Shaver was out of time as more than 10 years had passed since the claim arose. Mr. Shaver argued that his claim against the Co-operators arose only on January 19, 2010.

The court held that the limitation period in this endorsement allowed an injured person to sue later than the ultimate 10 year statutory limitation period in cases where the insured learned of inadequate insurance or of total claims exceeding the insurance limits after the expiry of that limitation period. The Co-operators appealed this decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

The Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s decision, citing the principle provided by the Alberta Court of Appeal in Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Co., [1994] AJ No. 126:

An insured’s claim against his own insurer arises not at the time of the accident, but when he knows, or should have known, that the tortfeasor’s coverage will be inadequate to cover the insured’s damages.

In the case at hand, both parties agreed that it was not until January 19, 2010 that Mr. Shaver knew that the torfeasor’s coverage would not be sufficient.

- Kristen Dearlove, Student-at-Law

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