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June 18, 2014

Laches Applies to Loss Transfer Actions

Insurers dealing with loss transfers should be aware of the decision in Zurich Insurance Company v. TD General Insurance Company, 2014 ONSC 3191 (S.C.J), where the Court dismissed the claim.

The claim arose out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred July 14, 1999.  In 2010, approximately 11 years after the accident, TD sent Zurich a Notice of Loss Transfer alleging Zurich's insured was 100% at fault.  Shortly after, TD made two requests for indemnification.  In 2011, TD brought an application requiring Zurich to participate in an arbitration.  Zurich brought a motion to decide a preliminary issue as to whether the application was barred by the equitable doctrine of laches and the Limitations Act.  The arbitrator dismissed the motion and Zurich appealed.

Justice Lederman held that TD's claim was not barred by the Limitation Act, relying on decision in Markel Insurance v. ING Insurance Company of Canada, 2012 ONCA 218 (CanLII), where the Court of Appeal held that the limitation period runs from the day the first party insurer requests loss transfer from the second party insurer.

However, Justice Lederman held that laches applied in the circumstances.  Applying laches in the circumstances was consistent with the fusion of law and equity to achieve just results.  He held that acquiescence is a stand-alone basis for laches, and there need not be prejudice for the doctrine to apply.  The 11-year delay coupled with a directive that the first party insurer notify the second party insurer promptly and the fact the TD is a sophisticated insurer, gave rise to an inference that it had abandoned or waived its rights to the claim. 

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