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Supreme Court of Canada will not hear ICBC appeal over $863K award arising from fatal collision


April 15, 2016   by Greg Meckbach


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Canada’s highest court will not hear an appeal from Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, which was ordered to indemnify the estate of a passenger who caused an accident by grabbing the steering wheel of a vehicle.

The Supreme Court of Canada announced Thursday it has denied ICBC leave to appeal decision released Sept. 23, 2015 by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

In 2012, Marnetta Felix had sought to recover, from ICBC, $863,242.63, the amount she was awarded by the estate of Kevin Hearne. Felix and Hearne were at a soccer game in July, 20006 when Hearne became intoxicated, according to court records. When they left the game, Felix was driving and Hearne was in the front seat. A collision occurred after Hearne grabbed the steering wheel and did not let go. Hearne was killed and Felix was seriously injured.

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In 2014, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that ICBC did not have to indemnify the Hearne estate. That ruling was overturned on appeal, which was on interpretation of the former Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act.

The B.C. Supreme Court agreed with ICBC’s argument that Felix’s interpretation of a regulation, in force at the time of the accident, “would lead to an absurdity: having one’s own owner’s certificate would entitle one to the status of an insured in respect of any motor vehicle, without that vehicle’s owner’s consent, and without having paid any extra premium.”

Section 63 (b) of B.C. Regulation 447/83 defined an insured as “an individual who, with the consent of the owner or while a member of the owner’s household, uses or operates the vehicle described in the owner’s certificate.”

“The concept of ‘use’ when it refers to use of a motor vehicle is broadly defined,” wrote Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, of the B.C. Court of Appeal, in its unanimous decision. “In my view, being a passenger in a motor vehicle is an ‘ordinary and well-known’ use of a vehicle.”

The appeal court ruled that the trial judge erred “when he excluded Mr. Hearne as a “user” and therefore not an insured” under section 63(b) of the regulation.