Economical Mutual Insurance Company v. Caughy, 2015 ONSC 3251

Released June 10, 2015 | CanLII

Patrick Caughy applied to Economical for accident benefits under his own motor vehicle policy, as a result of injuries he sustained on August 3, 2012. Economical brought an application for a determination as to whether Mr. Caughy had been involved in an “accident”, pursuant to section 3(1) of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule – effective September 1, 2010 (“the Schedule”).

On August 3, 2012, Mr. Caughy was camping at a music festival with his wife and children. He had parked his truck and camper trailer. At some point that night (after dark), two other campers parked their motorcycles within a designated walkway between Mr. Caughy’s truck and an adjacent camper trailer.

Mr. Caughy consumed a considerable amount of alcohol that day and evening. Shortly before midnight, while playing tag with his daughter, Mr. Caughy ran in between his truck and the adjacent camper trailer. While doing so, he collided with and tripped over one of the motorcycles that had been parked in the walkway. As he fell, he propelled forward and collided with his truck before falling to the ground. He sustained a serious spinal cord injury as a result.

Justice Nightingale set out the test for establishing whether the insured had been involved in an “accident”:

  1. Did the incident arise out of the use or operation of an automobile (i.e. the ordinary and well-known activities to which automobiles are put? (the “Purpose Test”); and
  1. Was the use or operation of an automobile a cause of the injuries and if so, was there an intervening act(s) that resulted in the injuries that cannot be said to be part of the “ordinary course of things”? In other words, can it be said that the use or operation of the vehicle was a “direct cause” of the injuries? (the “Causation Test”).

Under the Purpose Test, Justice Nightingale found that the two motorcycles had been parked on the walkway temporarily and only shortly before Mr. Caughy was injured. While the motorcycles were not in motion, Justice Nightingale found that parking them temporarily on a designated walkway constituted a normal, ordinary, or well-known use or operation of the motorcycle. He took authority in previous decisions that found that the parking of a motor vehicle on a highway or pedestrian walkway before an accident would constitute the “operation” of a motor vehicle.

Justice Nightingale also noted that this interpretation would be consistent with the operator of the motorcycle likely expecting his motorcycle liability insurer would defend any potential tort claim commenced against him for negligently parking his motorcycle in a walkway.

Under the Causation Test, Justice Nightingale noted that it was not enough to show that an automobile was the location of an injury or that an automobile was somehow involved in the incident. Rather, the use or operation of the automobile must have directly caused the injury.

Justice Nightingale held that the temporary parking of the motorcycle was the dominant feature of the incident and simply ancillary to it. It was parked on a pedestrian walkway after dark. He held that the parking of the motorcycle not only led to Mr. Caughy’s injuries, but directly contributed to and/or caused them. There was an unbroken chain of causation linking the conduct of the motorcycle operator and Mr. Caughy’s injuries. Justice Nightingale did not find that Mr. Caughy’s level of intoxication or the fact that he was running after dark were intervening acts.

Therefore, Justice Nightingale declared that Mr. Caughy had been involved in an accident pursuant to section 3(1) of the Schedule.

 

Counsel for Applicant: Daniel Strigberger and Ashleigh Leon

Counsel for Respondent: Nigel Gilby and Christopher Dawson

 

Full decision available on CanLII

Liane Shepley-Brown
Written by

Liane first joined Oatley Vigmond as a law student and later joined the team as an Associate Lawyer after her call to the bar. She holds a JD from the University of Windsor and an undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Guelph.

Liane is committed to representing individuals who have suffered serious personal injuries and to families who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Her practice concentrates on personal injury law, including accident benefits, motor vehicle collisions, medical malpractice, occupiers’ liability, product liability and wrongful death cases.

When Liane isn’t practicing personal injury law, she enjoys working out and spending time with family and friends.