Canadian Underwriter

Court tells ICBC to keep paying storage for acid-damaged vehicles

November 4, 2020   by The Canadian Press

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VANCOUVER – As a dispute over an acid spill that damaged thousands of vehicles winds its way through court, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. has been ordered to keep paying storage costs for the writeoffs.

The corporation asked the B.C. Supreme Court to allow it to dispose of the 519 vehicles it had determined were total writeoffs in order to save almost $55,000 a month in storage fees.

ICBC has accused Teck Metals Ltd., International Raw Materials Ltd., Westcan Bulk Transport Ltd. and others of twice spilling sulphuric acid along a highway near Trial, B.C., in April and May 2018.

The B.C. Supreme Court decision released Monday says ICBC alleges thousands of vehicles were damaged and it wants to dispose of those it claims are writeoffs while awaiting the main trial, after paying about $1.6 million in storage fees so far.

The defendants say the vehicle damage is the very subject of the legal action and must be preserved, while the insurance corporation says if those being sued want the vehicles stored, they should pay for it.

Justice Paul Riley has ordered ICBC to pay the costs until the end of March next year, while the defendants will be responsible for storage fees until the companies decide that keeping the vehicles is no longer necessary.

While it’s a significant out-of-pocket expenditure for ICBC, he says, the corporation can seek to recover the costs as part of its damages claim, if it wins at trial.

Riley says the additional storage time will allow the defendants to make reasonably informed final decisions about which vehicles to examine.

“Given that the plaintiff is claiming damages for the total loss of some 519 vehicles, the additional storage cost to the plaintiff is not disproportionate to the magnitude of damages in issue.”

One of the defendants alone estimates that its vehicle examination costs to date exceed $100,000, the judge noted.

“This shows that proper examination of the vehicles is no trivial matter to the defendants.”

Taking all of this into account, requiring the plaintiff to pay for an additional six months of vehicle storage costs is proportional, he says.


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