Canadian Underwriter

Injuries did not arise from indirect use of automobiles

November 30, 2007   by

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The Supreme Court of Canada has sided with insurers in two cases that threatened to expand the definition of an injury “arising directly or indirectly from the use or operation of an automobile.”

Inboth CitadelGeneralAssuranceCo. v. Vytlingham and LumbermensMutual Casualty Company v. Herbison, Canada’shighcourtfoundthatcar-relatedactivities were in each case “severable” from the tort that caused the injuries.

In Lumbermens, Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie wrote for the unanimous court: “It is simply not enough to find that the use or operation of the tortfeasor’s motor vehicle ‘in some manner contributes or adds to the injury,’ [as the OntarioAppealCourthadruledinLumbermens, citing Amos v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia]. “While I agree with the Ontario Court of Appeal that the addition of the ‘directly or indirectly’ language to s. 239 relaxed the causation requirement, nevertheless, some causation link must be found and it must constitute a link in an unbroken chain.”

In Lumbermens, several men drove their truck out to a designated hunting area and left the lights on. One hunter accidentally shot at another. The injured hunter sued against the shooter’s motor vehicle liability coverage because the injuries arose from the “indirect” use of the truck.

In Citadel General Insurance, the Vytlinghams were driving along an interstate highway when two youths launched boulders from an overpass, hitting the Vytlinghams’ vehicle. The Vytlinghams suffered catastrophic injuries and received no-fault benefits from their Ontario insurer. Since one of the boulder-throwers was underinsured, the Vytlinghams sought to recover civil damages under a policy endorsement that allowed damages to be covered for injuries “arising directly or indirectly” from the use of an automobile.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling, now overturned, said that since the underinsured had used a vehicle to transport the rocks to the scene of the crime and then later to escape, the insurer was liable to pay the Vytlinghams. •

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