Insurance law – Automobile insurance – Benefits – Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule – Ownership use or operation of motor vehicle – Chain of causation
Economical Mutual Insurance Co. v. Caughy,  O.J. No. 3008, 2015 ONSC 3251, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, June 10, 2015, R.J. Nightingale J.
Application by the insurer for a determination as to whether the insured was involved in an “accident” pursuant to s.3(1) of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, O. Reg. 34/10. The insured parked his camper trailer at a campsite, leaving a space between his trailer and the next trailer that was used as a designated walkway. Additional campers arrived the next day on two motorcycles and parked them on the insured’s campsite. Later that evening, without the insured’s knowledge, the motorcycles were moved onto the designated walkway. The insured returned to the campsite after dark having consumed considerable amounts of alcohol. A game of tag ensued in which the insured tripped over the motorcycle and sustained serious spinal injuries as a result. The insurer took the position that the insured was not entitled to accident benefits.
The court’s decision turned on the application of a two-part test, namely: whether the incident arose out of the use or operation of an automobile; and whether the use or operation of an automobile was a direct cause of the injuries.
The court held that while the motorcycle was not in motion at the time of the incident, the temporary parking of the motorcycle constituted a normal, or well-known use or operation of the motorcycle. Moreover, the court held such an interpretation of use or operation was consistent with the fact that the motorcycle operator would likely expect his liability insurer to respond to a tort claim, had the insured brought one.
The main issue was causation and the application of the second part of the test. The court held that the temporary parking of the motorcycle on the walkway was the dominant feature in the incident and not simply ancillary to it. Further, as there was no intervening or distinct act that was not part of the ordinary course of things, there was an unbroken chain of causation linking the motorcycle operator’s conduct to the insured’s injuries. Neither the fact that the insured was running after dark or had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol was sufficient to break the chain of causation. Accordingly, the court issued a declaration in favour of the insured.
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