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Monday Morning Case Bites for December 2, 2019

Last Week’s Court Rulings from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, Court of Appeal and SCC.

Edited by Amanda Kostek & Christie Dewar

Dobson v Hill, 2019 ABQB 904
Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund | Trailer Explosion l Coverage

Smale v Joozdani, 2019 ABQB 909
Inordinate Delay | ‘Documents Case’

Dobson v Hill, 2019 ABQB 904

This was an application about the interpretation of s. 5(1) of the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act, and whether injuries caused by a trailer explosion were covered by the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. The Court concluded that the injuries were covered.

In January of 2011, the Plaintiff was near a Grande Cache well site with his heater truck. The Defendant was to supply water, but the valve to release the water was frozen. The Defendant tried to thaw it with a propane torch, resulting in a tank explosion. The Plaintiff was badly injured and WCB coverage was not available.

The Court noted that trailers are defined separately from motor vehicles and trailers are only registered once:

[6] The Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act adopts the meaning of ‘motor vehicle’ from the Traffic Safety Act. The definition of motor vehicle in the Traffic Safety Act does not include ‘trailer’, which is separately defined.

[7]               Parenthetically, I note that trailers are registered once. Motor vehicles are registered annually and a levy is collected from the annual registration to cover the Accident Claims legislation.

The Court referred to the two part test in interpreting whether the injuries arose out of the ownership, use or operation of a motor vehicle:

  1. Did the accident result from the ordinary and well-known activities to which automobiles are put?
  2. Is there some nexus or casual relationship (not necessarily a direct or proximate causal relationship) between the injuries and the ownership, use or operation of the motor vehicle, or is the connection between the injuries and the ownership, use or operation of the vehicle merely incidental or fortuitous?

The Court determined that there was coverage under the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund on the following basis:

[9]               I acknowledge that the Court is not to rewrite legislation under the guise of statutory interpretation (eg Canada v Canada North Group Inc2019 ABCA 314 (CanLII), at para 83 per Wakeling JA, dissenting).

[10]           In the Alberta Legislative Assembly (Hansard, May 8, 1996 at 1471), we are told that the intention of the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act is to put injured third-parties ‘in the same position as they would have been in terms of recovery for damage had it not been for an uninsured motorist…’. In my view, we are also entitled to look beyond the statute itself, on the principle of consistency with similar legislation (ie Azevedo v Markel Insurance Company of Canada1999 ABCA 301 (CanLII), at para 13). Finally, Rizzo (Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd (Re)1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 SCR 27, at para 36) tells us that benefits-conferring legislation should be given a broad and generous interpretation, with any doubts being resolved in favour of a claimant.

[11]           The accident was caused by the operation of a trailer attached to a motor vehicle. The accident fits within the principles stated in Hauck, above, and there is a chain of causation between the use of the truck, the trailer and the cause of the injury (eg Citadel General Assurance Co v Vytlingam2007 SCC 46 (CanLII), at para 25 and Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Co v Herbison2007 SCC 47 (CanLII), pages 403 – 404 at para 14.

[12]           Accordingly, it is my view that the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act, properly interpreted, covers Mr. Dobson for this accident.

Smale v Joozdani, 2019 ABQB 909

This was a successful application to dismiss a claim for inordinate delay.  The Court commented that the mere fact that document disclosure was hundreds of pages did not mean the case was a ‘documents case’ for the purposes of resisting an inordinate delay application:

[20] My conclusion is that Smale/RCC have not rebutted the presumption of significant prejudice, for the reasons set out below.

[21] While there are hundreds of pages of documents listed in the parties’ affidavits of records, that does not make this a ‘documents’ case so far as evaluating prejudice from delay.

A key factor was that by the time this claim would see the inside of a court room, 12 years would have passed from the events in question:

[24] If this matter was to come to trial in (perhaps) 2022, the Court would have to determine which of the competing versions represents the actual arrangement between the parties. This determination would depend on the testimony of the participants regarding events and discussions held in 2009 and 2010. It is obvious that the lengthy passage of time will dull the litigants’ memories of those events and discussions.

The claim was dismissed.