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December 24, 2014

Renter’s Insurer is First to Respond, Even if Only a Third Party

A recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice provides guidance as to whose insurer must respond first to a plaintiff’s claim in motor vehicle accidents involving rented or leased automobiles.

In Elias v. Koochek, 2014 ONSC No. 5003 (S.C.J.), the Court heard a motion involving a rental car accident. The passengers of the car brought a lawsuit naming the uninsured driver of the car (Koochek) and the owner of the car (Aviscar) as defendants. Aviscar then brought a third party claim against the renter of the car (Moshe). The court was asked to determine whether the renter’s insurer was required to respond first to the plaintiff’s claim.

In order to answer this question the court looked to section 277(1.1) of the Insurance Act and the corresponding provisions of the Ontario Automobile Policy. Section 277(1.1) provides for the priority in which available insurance policies are to respond to liability from the ownership or operation of a leased (rented) automobile. It states that the lessee’s (renter’s) policy is to respond first, followed by the driver’s policy and then the owner’s policy. This is an exception to the general rule in motor vehicle accidents that the owner’s policy is to respond first.

The renter argued that his insurance was not “available” because he was not named as a defendant in the main action. The court disagreed, and stated that making the availability of the renter’s policy dependant on whether the renter was named as a defendant or a third party would lead to inconsistent results and subvert the legislative intent behind section 277(1.1). The court said that while a claim does need to be made against the renter in order to trigger the availability of their insurance under 277(1.1), the procedural manner of pleading by which this claim is made is not relevant.

As such, the court found that the renter’s insurer did need to respond first to the plaintiff’s claim.

December 17, 2014

Changes to the Rules of Civil Procedure

The Rules of Civil Procedure are being amended as of January 1, 2015.  Included in the amendments are changes to r. 48.

Currently, r. 48.14 provides that if an action has not been placed on the trial list within two years after the first defence is filed, the Registrar will issue a status notice providing that the action will be dismissed in 90 days.

The new rule provides that the Registrar shall dismiss the action for delay if:

(a) The action has not been set down or terminated by the later of five years after its commencement or January 1, 2017; or
(b) The action was struck from the trial list and has not been restored to the trial list by the later of  two years of being struck or January 1, 2017.

If a status hearing was scheduled before January 1, 2015, the old rule continues to apply.

These amendments will likely help to avoid many motions that were necessary to either avoid a dismissal or to set aside an administrative dismissal.

December 10, 2014

City Not Liable for Icy Boulevard

In 2013, we blogged on a decision by Justice Gorman dismissing a claim where the plaintiff fell on a sloped boulevard between the street and the sidewalk, Bondy v. London.  The link to the blog post can be found here.  The plaintiff appealed the decision.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, at 2014 ONCA 291 (C.A.).  The parties agreed that the boulevard was a "highway" within the meaning of the Municipal Act.  The Court of Appeal held that the highest standard to which the area needed to be maintained was as a highway for vehicles, not as a passageway for pedestrian traffic. 

The plaintiff argued on appeal that because from time to time people cross the road in the middle between intersections, it creates a special circumstance that elevates the standard of maintenance.  The Court of Appeal disagreed, holding that "The fact that people may cross at undesignated places on a road does not create or impose on the Municipality a higher level of maintenance obligation."  There were also no special circumstances that created an obligation on the adjacent property owner to maintain the boulevard.

December 3, 2014

Municipal Toboganning Case Dismissed

The Municipality of Leamington recently successfully defended a case where the plaintiff alleged she was injured tobogganing.  In De Cou v. Leamington, 2014 ONSC 6044 (S.C.J.), the plaintiff was injured while sledding down a hill in a park run by Leamington.  Although the Town was aware that people used the hill, there had been no complaints about it.  The plaintiff was 29 years old and had been sledding on the hill since she was 5.  The Town did not maintain the park in the winter.

Justice Carey held that there was no breach of the duty of care.  The plaintiff willingly assumed the risk.  Justice Carey held that "Going down a snow covered hill in February  on a light piece of material (be it plastic, cardboard, Styrofoam or wood) is a typical Canadian winter experience.  Falling off a sled is also part of that experience."  There was no causal link between the Town's failure to supervise or inspect the hill and the plaintiff's injuries.  The case was dismissed.