A Tale Of Two Insurers: Determining Who Provides Coverage After Road Rage Incidents

Thin lines exist even in places where they may not be totally obvious. Take for example the act of driving a car. It’s obvious that one’s motor vehicle insurance is in effect when they are operating their car. But what about when something happens when they are driving and they get out of their car, and that is when an event requiring insurance coverage works? This was the very question recently addressed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Road rage

The incident occurred on October 9, 2008 at a busy intersection in Toronto. The plaintiff was a passenger in a car that was struck by another car. The driver of that car, who was a defendant in the original trial brought a claim against the driver of a third-party car. The driver of that car is the defendant in this case. It was alleged that the defendant contributed to the accident by driving too fast, not braking properly, not looking out for other vehicles, and driving into the path of an oncoming vehicle. In addition, it was alleged that the defendant,

“threatened the Defendant (Mr. Fabrizi) and the passenger in the Defendant’s vehicle with violence by getting out of the Third Party vehicle, yelling at them and hitting the window and other parts of the Defendant’s vehicle and other gestures causing the occupants of the Defendant’s vehicle to fear for their lives.”

The insurance dispute

The defendant has two insurance policies relevant to the case at hand. His auto insurance is provided by Dominion, which had accepted its duty to defend him “to the extent that the allegations arise out of the use, ownership or operation of a motor vehicle…” However, Dominion said it was not responsible for liability not arising out of the defendant’s ownership, use, or operation of the vehicle, including the road rage he was said to have committed. Instead, Dominion argued that the defendant’s home insurer, Pembridge, should be responsible for damages arising for anything that happened after the defendant left his vehicle. The Pembridge policy states it “will pay all sums which the insured becomes legally liable to pay as compensatory damages because of bodily injury or property damages.” However, there are exclusions stated, including “bodily injury or property damage caused by any intentional or criminal acts or failure to act on the part of the insured.”

The reason for the hearing in this case was because Pembridge was seeking an order declaring the defendant to not have a defense or indemnity under its home in insurance policy.

The court’s analysis

The court took some time looking at definitions of what constitutes “the use, ownership or operation of a motor vehicle” as per the Dominion policy. However, the court ultimately determined that such an analysis was not necessary. Instead, it could look strictly at the Pembridge policy. The court explained,

“The Pembridge Policy makes clear that liability flowing from the use or operation of a motor vehicle is excluded or not covered by the Pembridge Policy.  Accordingly, a finding that the relevant claims in the pleadings against (the defendant) arise from the ownership, use or operation of a motor vehicle necessarily excludes coverage by the Pembridge Policy.”

As a result, the court found that the defendant was not entitled to a defense nor indemnity under the Pembridge policy.

The experienced team at Derfel Injury Law has over a decade of experience in representing clients who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents. We understand how difficult it can be when the facts of a case may not be clear, or when there are multiple parties involved in an accident. Our compassionate and professional approach seeks to ensure you are represented as best as possible through every step of your claim. Please call us at 416.847.3580or reach us online to see how we can help you today.