Bloomberg: Canada auto insurers win in Supreme Court

This Bloomberg story is fascinating: Canada’s Supreme Court overturned lower courts that had required insurers to pay for losses arising "directly or indirectly" from the use of an automobile in the following situations: 

  • Todd Farmer and Anthony Raynor, high on drugs and alcohol, dropped a 30-pound boulder from an overpass onto a passing car.  The men were later convicted and sentenced to prison. Damages suffered by the driver were assessed at $996,850, plus interest. Farmer’s auto insurance had a policy limit of $25,000.

    Farmer transported rocks to the overpass in the back of his truck, which the Canadian court of appeal said was enough to trigger the auto insurance coverage. 

  • In a 1999 hunting case, Ontario resident Fred Wolfe arrived at a designated stand before sunrise and saw a flash of white in the headlights of his truck. Wolfe was outside his vehicle.  He fired his gun and shot Harold Herbison, a member of his hunting party, about 1000 feet from the vehicle. The court of appeal also said this was sufficient connection to the use of a vehicle to trigger coverage.

You know, when you think how much we use our cars, it doesn’t take too much creativity to find a link, direct or indirect, between any injury and an automobile.  I once ripped the leg of my pants at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game, which I would not have been at if my brother-in-law hadn’t driven me there.  A link?  Oh yes.  The only question in my mind is whether the link is direct or indirect.   

Incidentally, here in the U.S., there are frequent disputes about when someone "occupies" a vehicle, a concept with a similar ability to expand or contract, depending on who is doing the judging.  If a person is not a first named insured on a policy, UIM coverage is often available only if the person occupies the vehicle. Some courts say that standing near a car after an accident is not occupying it. Some say that being crushed between two vehicles is occupying one of them.  Some say that a fall on ice near the rear of a vehicle you are unloading is not occupying the vehicle.  The scenarios go on and on.  I’ve never looked to see if there is one, but I presume that somewhere, someone got roped into writing a 600-page ALR entry on this very subject, compiling the seemingly endless variety of ways humans can be injured in proximity to cars.    

4 Comments

Filed under Liability Policies

4 Responses to Bloomberg: Canada auto insurers win in Supreme Court

  1. Dropping boulder from overpass onto passing car

    No, it’s not covered under the auto insurance policy of one of the perpetrators (as arising “directly or indirectly” from the use of an automobile), per Canada’s supreme court, reversing a lower court. The supposed trigger for coverage found by…

  2. mike dempsey

    I’m not totally clear on what coverage was at issue in the Wytlingam case. Do you think it was his own UM insurer who refused to pay?
    I wonder what the mother and sister were paid for if they weren’t physically hurt!

  3. Really weird case I live in Canada and I work in the field and wow I do not understand the link between the car and the shooting.

  4. Bumper

    Don’t forget the Ohio SC decision to uphold an employer’s auto insurance being forced to cover an employee’s accident while driving his personal car on a weekend when he was not doing anything work related.
    The next election saw a change in the makeup of said court.