Ontario Court of Appeal Confirms 'lex fori' Applies – Ontario Auto Insurance is a Contract and Ontario Law Applies to the Contract - Benson v. Belair Insurance Company Inc., 2019 ONCA 840

November 05, 2019, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

The Court of Appeal recently confirmed that lex loci delicti - the law of the place where the event occurred – does not apply in Ontario insurance contract law as it governs entitlement to benefits.

Benson v Belair Insurance Company Inc, 2019 ONCA 840 saw Belair argue that the automobile insurance policy did not apply to an ATV accident that occurred in British Columbia. The insurer argued that since ATVs do not require insurance in B.C. and they are not considered to be motor vehicles, the insured who had sustained severe brain injuries in an accident on holidays was not entitled to benefits from his policy. If this reasoning were upheld it would have placed drivers in jeopardy when leaving the province of Ontario.

The insured had applied for benefits that were denied by Belair. His application failed at arbitration where the Arbitrator took the insurer’s position that the principle of lex loci delecti meant Ontario law had no relevance to the accident which occurred in B.C.. His application failed at the FSCO. The Director’s Delegate took the position on appeal that Ontario’s Insurance Act defines “automobile” as something that is “required under any act” to be insured and as the ATV did not required insurance in B.C. it didn’t fall under the definition of ‘automobile”.

His application for judicial review also failed. He finally appealed the application for judicial review to the Court of Appeal where he won. At the Court of Appeal Justice Feldman narrowed the finding that there could only be a ‘single reasonable interpretation’ and that the definition of automobile was clear and unambiguous. She ruled that the Arbitrator and Director’s Delegate had ‘proceeded on a legal misapprehension’ that lex loci delicti applies to an Ontario contract and Ontario legislation when the legislation directs that Ontario law applied.

Robert Ben who acted for Benson stated that “we were convinced that we were right and everyone else was wrong in terms of the law. To put it really, simply, every auto policy in Ontario says that it's a contract made in Ontario and Ontario law applies to the contract and the contract covers you for accidents happening anywhere in Canada or the United States”.

This ruling means that both insurers and the insured can rest secure in the knowledge that regardless of the jurisdiction in which a claim occurs the amounts of insurance benefits remain what is agreed in the contract. Any other conclusion would create great uncertainty in risk assessment and calculating payouts simply on the basis of where the accident occurred.

Posted under Accident Benefit News, Automobile Accident Benefits, Brain Injury, Car Accidents, FSCO, Personal Injury, Trial Procedures

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