Canadian Underwriter

Dangerous driving doesn’t necessarily trigger policy exclusion for intent to injure

March 14, 2022   by David Gambrill

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A driver pleading guilty and spending nine months in jail on a charge of dangerous driving causing bodily harm does not necessarily prove he intended to cause the injuries, an Alberta court has found.

In other words, an auto insurer cannot necessarily use a dangerous-driving conviction to claim a policy exclusion for intent to injure, thus denying full coverage for liability.

In reaching this conclusion, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ordered a new trial to establish an intent to injure – and the insurer, RBC Insurance (since acquired by Aviva), has a duty to defend the insured at trial.

Even after a conviction, the facts in Karadeniz v Intact Insurance Company are still under dispute. The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decision says at approximately 2 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2011, a Dodge minivan operated by Marco Beausoleil collided with Sezgin Karadeniz, Metin Yukselir and Andres Chirinos in the parking lot of Azucar restaurant in Edmonton, Alta.

Chirinos worked for the restaurant, providing security. Karadeniz and Yukselir were patrons. At some point before the collision, a physical altercation took place between Beausoleil and Yukselir. After the fight, the parties separated; Beausoleil left the restaurant and entered his Dodge minivan in the parking lot.

According to various witnesses, about 10 minutes later, Yukselir and some friends exited the restaurant and started to walk across the parking lot towards Yukselir’s car. As he was walking, he noticed a motor vehicle coming towards him. Beausoleil was the driver.

Witnesses claimed the vehicle sped up to between 80 and 100 km/h. Some described the driving pattern as one in which Beausoleil swerved towards the group of pedestrians. This caused people to jump out of the way, some of them falling. Yukselir believes the vehicle struck him, despite his efforts to get out of its way.

After Yukselir was allegedly hit, his friends started to strike the vehicle, punching at the windows. At that point, Beausoleil reversed the vehicle. Karadeniz was struck and Beausoleil’s minivan also collided with a parked truck. The collision started a chain reaction that resulted in Chirinos being struck.

Beausoleil then drove away from the scene without stopping to check on any of the injured parties.

Pointing to inconsistencies in the witness statements (for example, the parking lot was not long enough for Beausoleil to reach a speed of 80 km/h by the time he reached the patrons), a Court of Queen’s Bench judge found it remains unknown whether Beausoleil intended to injure someone. It’s possible he could have been frightened when he backed up, for example, the court noted.

Beusoleil’s insurance company, RBC Insurance, said the collision was intentional. Based on an exclusion in Beausoleil’s auto policy for intentional acts, the insurer said his coverage is limited to $200,000. The damages claimed by Karadeniz, Yukselir, and Chirinos exceeds that limit. Chirinos, for example, suffered a fractured skull and a significant brain injury.

Karadeniz and Yukselir each had insurance policies with Intact Insurance; Chirinos had a policy with Unifund Assurance. Intact and Unifund argued the collision was not intentional, and so RBC is liable up to the $1-million limit on Beausoleil’s policy. That would limit the contribution of Intact and Unifund under their auto insurance policies.

In concluding a trial was necessary, the court noted the affidavit evidence was not sufficient to say whether or not Beausoleil intended to cause harm. And the trial judge’s sentencing decision was only for “dangerous driving causing bodily harm,” which did not, in and of itself, establish intent to injure.

In establishing a dangerous driving offence, “the [court] must be satisfied that the driving pattern amounted to a marked departure from the standard of care a reasonable person would use in those circumstances,” the Court of the Queen’s Bench observed. “It is important to note that no finding of the driver’s actual intention is required, only an examination of the driver’s actions in comparison with that of a reasonable person in the same circumstances. If the actions are a marked departure from the norm of a reasonable person, the offense is made out.”

In sentencing Beausoleil, the judge seemed to take into account that “the prosecution conceded that Mr. Beausoleil did not have an intention of causing any injuries,” the Court of the Queen’s Bench found.

“From her reasoning, [the sentencing judge] appears to have accepted this as a mitigating fact on sentence. It would seem that she accepted that a reasonable person in Mr. Beausoleil’s position would not have operated a motor vehicle in the manner that Mr. Beausoleil did.

“However, there is no finding that he intended to operate the vehicle in a manner that would cause injury to someone. As no transcript has been provided to show what facts Mr. Beausoleil accepted regarding his guilty plea, the facts upon which the guilty plea are based are unknown in this application.”

What’s more, the affidavit evidence in support of RBC’s decision contains conflicting information, the court found. This was due to a “contentious and incomplete [affidavit] record.”

“I find that the only way a [court] could reach a conclusion regarding Mr. Beausoleil’s intention, and the nature of his actions, would be through oral evidence,” the Court of Queen’s Bench ruled, ordering a new trial. “The evidence given in the witness statements should be tested through examination and cross-examination, as should Mr. Beausoleil’s statement.”


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