A taxi driver who was severely beaten by a passenger, after the driver walked 40-to-50 steps away from his running taxi to collect a fare, was not involved in an insurable “auto accident,” the Ontario Superior Court has confirmed.
The court upheld a decision by the License Appeal Tribunal (LAT), which rejected the taxi driver’s appeal from a decision by his insurer to deny coverage. Certas denied auto insurance benefits because the injuries were neither directly caused by the vehicle, nor was leaving the vehicle to collect a fare an “ordinary use or operation” of a taxi.
The initial LAT adjudicator, whose decision was upheld twice on appeals, found: “The ordinary use or operation of an automobile, specifically a taxi, includes picking up, transporting and dropping off paying passengers, and it is uncontested that this is what [Muhammad Sajid] was engaged in when the incident occurred. However, I am not persuaded that MS’s exiting his cab and walking some distance away from it to collect a fare from a passenger falls within the definition of ordinary use and operation of a vehicle.”
Essentially, by walking away from the taxi to collect the fare, Sajid broke the chain of causation where the taxi could be said to have directly caused his injuries, the court found.
On July 16, 2013, Sajid, a taxi driver, responded to a dispatch call at approximately 11:30 p.m. and picked up three young adults. He drove them to the drop-off location in front of a townhouse complex. Two of the passengers exited the vehicle and went inside the townhouse complex. The third passenger exited the vehicle and Sajid advised him of the fare.
The passenger attempted to pay via his credit card but realized he did not have his credit card with him. He asked Sajid to accompany him to his home in the complex to get the cash to pay him. Sajid told the court it was normal procedure for taxi drivers to follow passengers to their homes to collect payment, so he agreed, turning on the taxi’s hazard lights and leaving the engine on. They exited the taxi and he followed the passenger along the walkway to his home.
After approximately 40-to-50 steps away from the vehicle, the passenger turned around, attacked and beat Sajid, and then ran off. As a result of the assault, Sajid spent one month in hospital and underwent multiple surgeries. In addition to physical injuries, he now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and sleeping problems.
He applied to his insurer, Certas, for accident benefits. Certas denied coverage, on the basis that his injuries did not meet the definition of an auto “accident” under Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule. The legislation sets out that the “use or operation” of the vehicle has to be the direct cause of the injuries, and that the injuries have to have happened during the “ordinary use or operation of an automobile.”