Father Seeks Insurance Defence For Negligent Parenting

Pursuing compensation for injuries suffered in an automobile accident can be a complicated and drawn out process. Identifying who is responsible for an accident and how those responsible are to be defended through insurance can be tough to navigate. A recent decision from the Court of Appeal for Ontario highlights these types of complications.

Negligent parenting leads to accident

The injured party in the accident was a minor. She sued her father and her father’s girlfriend after a vehicle the girlfriend owned and was operating was involved in a motor vehicle accident which injured the daughter. Both adults were alleged to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.

The girlfriend was insured, and the father made the argument that the insurer also had a duty to defend him against the allegation of negligent parenting. He claimed he was an “insured person within the meaning of Ontario’s Insurance Act. The relevant section of the Act states,

239 (1) Subject to section 240, every contract evidenced by an owner’s policy insures the person named therein, and every other person who with the named person’s consent drives, or is an occupant of, an automobile owned by the insured named in the contract and within the description or definition thereof in the contract, against liability imposed by law upon the insured named in the contract or that other person for loss or damage,

(a) arising from the ownership or directly or indirectly from the use or operation of any such automobile; and

(b) resulting from bodily injury to or the death of any person and damage to property.  R.S.O. 1990, c. I.8, s. 239 (1).”

The motion judge determined that the liability shared by the father did not arise from the use or operation of the automobile involved in the accident.

The appeal

The father appealed the decision, arguing that the motion judge used too narrow an interpretation of the Act and applied the causation test improperly.

The court did not agree with the father’s claim, stating,

“The plain and ordinary meaning of section 239(1)(a) precludes recovery. It makes clear that to be covered, an occupant’s liability must be for loss or damage arising from the use or operation of the automobile. Even though (the daughter’s) injuries arose from the use of a vehicle, (the father’s) liability for her loss or damage does not. His liability is alleged to arise from negligent parenting, not from anything he did or did not do as an occupant connected to the use or operation of the automobile. When the motion judge spoke of the absence of a causal connection this is what he was alluding to – the statutory requirement that the occupant’s liability must be caused by or connected to the use or operation of the automobile.

“As the motion judge pointed out, on (the father’s) theory his liability for negligent parenting arising from a decision to put his daughter in an automobile operated by an impaired driver would be covered if he also got into the car, but not if he did not. The plain language of the provision prevents the absurdity of coverage linked to his fortuitous and immaterial occupancy. Nor can the plain language of section 239 be overcome by the fact that the Insurance Act is consumer protection legislation, or that policies should be construed in favour of coverage.”

If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident and have already sought medical help, contact Derfel Injury Law to meet the personal injury lawyers and professional legal team who will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible resolution to your accident benefits claim. Our office is conveniently located in Toronto. Call us at 416.847.3580 to schedule a visit at the individual office closest to you or contact us online.