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April 2, 2014

Duty to Defend - Extrinsic Evidence Not Permitted

In Liardi v. Riotrin Properties (Kingston) Inc., 2013 ONSC 7544 (S.C.J), the defendant, Future Shop, brought a motion for a declaration that Zurich had a duty to defend the underlying action.  The issues on the motion were whether the plaintiff's pleadings raised covered and non-covered claims, and whether extrinsic evidence could be admitted in enlarge or explain the pleadings.

In the main action, the plaintiff alleged he bought a television at Future Shop and was instructed to move his car to the back of the store to load it.  An employee was having difficulty lifting the television so the plaintiff got out of his car to assist.  He alleged he slipped on ice and fell as he was walking to the rear.  The allegations against Future Shop included that it failed to have adequate persons to load the television, knew a dangerous condition existed and failed to ameliorate it, failed to ensure the premises were properly salted/sanded, and failed to properly monitor the area.

The landlord, Riotrin, was responsible for common areas under the lease.  Future Shop was named as an additional insured on the landlord's policy with Zurich.

Zurich sought to introduce extrinsic evidence as to the way Future Shop operated its businesses, including policies with respect to loading merchandise into customers' cars.  Justice Tausendfreund refused to admit the evidence as it touched on matters at issue against Future Shop which might prejudice Future Shop or bring it into conflict with the insurer.

Justice Tausendfreund held there was a duty to defend.  The plaintiff fell on snow and ice in the parking lot and the reason he did so was not relevant.  The claim did not relate to the way Future Shop did business but rather to the condition of the parking lot.  

When deciding duty to defend motions, courts will look at the essence of a claim.  It may be difficult to show that certain parts do not require a defence unless there are clear claims that could stand on their own.

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