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February 25, 2015

Claim Against Brokerage Employee Struck

A Statement of Claim that seeks relief against an insurance broker and its employee must adequately distinguish the allegations made against the employee from those made against the company.

In ACI Brands Inc. v. Aviva Insurance Co. of Canada, the plaintiff, ACI Brands Inc., alleged that it was sold inadequate insurance coverage by the defendants. The defendants were an insurance company (Aviva Insurance Company of Canada), an insurance broker (Jones Brown Inc.) and an employee of Jones Brown Inc. (Stephen Smith).

The plaintiff’s Statement of Claim did not outline Smith’s role other than to say that he was the Jones Brown Inc. employee who had secured insurance coverage for ACI. The Statement of Claim did not differentiate the allegations made against Smith from those made against Jones Brown Inc. (the allegations were made against “the Broker and/or Smith”).

Smith brought a motion to strike the plaintiff’s pleading under Rule 21.

The court cited the Ontario Court of Appeal decision in ScotiaMcLeod Inc. v. Peoples Jewellers Ltd., which stated that, in order to hold an employee personally liable for his or her conduct, the employee’s conduct must demonstrate that the employee acted with a “separate identity or interest from that of the company so as to make the act or conduct complained of their own”.

Given that the Statement of Claim failed to differentiate Smith’s conduct from that of Jones Brown Inc., and thus failed to demonstrate that separate identity or interest, the court struck the claim as against Smith for disclosing no reasonable prospect of success.

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