Case Summary: Amos v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, [1995] 3 S.C.R. 405

On August 21, 1991, Briton Amos, a Canadian Citizen from British Columbia, was in East Palo Alto in California. Mr. Amos had stopped at an intersection he noticed three men crossing from the median into the path of his van. He slowed and moved his van to the right, and then noticed a fourth man jump from a bush on the side of the road into the path of his van. When he attempted to avoid hitting him, two more men came out of the bushes and surrounded his van. Mr. Amos locked all doors of his vehicle and kept his van moving. The men moved with the van and began pounding on the doors and windows, breaking the glass of the driver’s door. One of the men had a gun and moved to the driver’s side door. Mr. Amos noticed he was bleeding but did not hear a gun shot. Mr. Amos was able to keep the van moving, and once he was away from the assailants, he pulled the emergency brake and called for help. It was discovered that two shots had been fired and one went into Mr. Amos’ spine at the T8-9 level causing disabling and permanent injuries. His capacity to earn his livelihood has been substantially destroyed, and he was left permanently dependent upon others for his care and maintenance.

Mr. Amos was insured by Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) under a standard automobile policy. He applied for medical and other benefits through his policy of insurance. Section 79(1) of the Insurance Act of British Columbia requires insurance companies in BC to pay benefits to an insured in respect of death or injury caused by an accident that arises out of the ownership, use or operation of a vehicle. ICBC denied coverage to Mr. Amos.

On February 5, 1993 the Supreme Court of BC dismissed the action. The trial judge relied on the cases of Stevenson v. Reliance Petroleum Ltd., [1956] S.C.R. 936, and Law, Union & Rock Insurance Co. v. Moore’s Taxi Ltd., [1960] S.C.R. 80 and decided that both the “purpose test” and “chain of causation test” had to be met before benefits could be claimed. The trial judge found that just by being in a vehicle when injuries are sustained was not enough to find a casual link between the injuries and the ownership, use or operation of a vehicle. The trial judge found that the injuries sustained by Mr. Amos did not result in any way from a car accident. The judge could not find evidence that the assailants were attempting to hijack his van or that the van itself in any way contributed to or aggravated his injuries. The injuries were caused not by anything [the appellant] did as owner of his van but by his attackers. The van was merely the situs of the attack.

The case was appealed, and the Court of Appeal found the trial Judge was correct in his interpretation of the applicable legislation. In the Court’s view, it was not enough that the accident happens while the injured party was using or operating the vehicle. Nor was it sufficient that the injured party happened to be in the vehicle at the time the accident occurred if the accident had no reasonable relationship to the ownership, use or operation of the vehicle.

The Plaintiff applied for leave to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). The following were the issues posed to the SCC:

  1. Did the Court of Appeal err in adopting a “causal connection” test in interpreting s. 79(1) of the Revised Regulation?
  2. Did a causal connection exist between the accident and the ownership, use or operation of the appellant’s van within the meaning of s. 79(1)?
  3. Did the Court of Appeal err in holding that the appellant’s van was merely the situs of a shooting and not causally connected to his injuries?

In the Court’s decision, it was noted that the inclusion of the words “ownership” and “use” in s. 79(1) of the Act was indicative of a legislative intent to establish broader coverage than for incidents arising from just the “operation” of a vehicle. The Court found the Plaintiff met the first part of the test by driving his van down the street. A direct or proximate causal connection is not required between the injuries suffered and the ownership, use or operation of a vehicle. The phrase “arising out of” was found to be broader than “caused by” and must be interpreted in a more liberal manner. Proof by the injured plaintiff of the intent of the assailant, while helpful in establishing the necessary nexus or causal link, was not found to be mandatory when deciding on a coverage issue.
While the appellant’s van may have been singled out by his assailants on a random basis, the shooting which caused his injuries was not random. The appellant’s vehicle was not merely the situs of the shooting. The shooting was the direct result of the assailants’ failed attempt to gain entry to the appellant’s van and arose out of the appellant’s ownership, use and operation of his vehicle. Whether or not the shooting was accidental was unimportant. No intervening act, independent of the ownership, use or operation of the vehicle, broke the chain of causation.

The SCC found that the appellant’s injuries arose out of the ownership, use and operation of his van. They originated from, flowed from, or were causally connected with its ownership, use and operation. There was no intervening act, independent of the ownership, use or operation of the vehicle, which broke the chain of causation. Mr. Amos was therefore found to be entitled to Part VII no-fault benefits.

Denied Coverage from Insurance Company

Individual cases must be decided on the specific facts of the case and it is impossible to predict every type of injury that will result from the use or ownership of a vehicle. If you have been denied coverage from your insurance company, please feel free to give us a call to discuss your matter with our experienced personal injury lawyers in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Our consultations are free of charge.

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