Canadian Underwriter

Man in default of auto accident judgments cannot challenge their validity in follow-up actions to recoup amounts: court

July 16, 2012   by Canadian Underwriter

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A man in default of two court judgments ordering him to pay a total of $80,000 in damages to two injury victims in a 1992 auto accident is not entitled to challenge the validity of those judgments in subsequent actions intended to recoup the outstanding payments, the Court of the Queen’s Bench in Alberta has found.

Maurice Riendeau did not defend himself and was noted in default in a personal injury action arising from a September 1992 auto accident, in which Arlene Helen Zawaski and Shawn Bruce McNamara (a passenger in Zawaski’s car) were injured.

Zawaski and McNamara commenced an action against Riendeau, who was noted in default, and Alberta’s Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act stepped in to defend the claims on behalf of Riendeau.

After serving Riendeau personally and hearing nothing back, the administrator consented to — and paid — the judgments entered against Riendeau ($35,159.84 to Zawaski and $44,888.78 to McNamara).

The administrator later filed renewal actions to recoup payments in both the Zawaski and McNamara judgments in 2006-07, following a $500 payment Riendeau made against the Zawaski judgment in order to restore his driver’s licence when he moved back to Alberta.

Riendeau filed statements of defence and counterclaims against the administrator’s renewal actions in an effort to recover the $500 he paid for the Zawaski judgment.

The administrator sought summary judgment in the renewal actions and a summary dismissal of Riendeau’s counter-claims on the basis that the court had already adjudicated the Zawaski and McNamara matters. The court agreed with the administrator.

“I am satisfied that the circumstances of this particular case warrant the application of the doctrine of res judicata [a legal term referring to a matter already adjudicated],” Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice D.R.G. Thomas wrote for the court.

“Further, there is evidence that the amount of $500 was paid by Riendeau on the Zawaski judgment on Mar. 21, 2006. That is evidence that he recognized and accepted the validity of the Zawaski and McNamara judgments. He is now estopped [prevented] from challenging their validity on the basis of this one payment, notwithstanding his claim that he had to make the payment to renew his Alberta driver’s licence.”

The full case can be read at: