A final report regarding the Ontario automobile insurance dispute resolution system (DRS) was issued on February 18, 2014. This report contains a list of 28 recommendations to transform Ontario’s DRS with the goal that it will operate fairly, efficiently and effectively.
A review of the Ontario automobile insurance DRS was first announced in the 2012 Ontario Budget. On August 23, 2013, the Ontario Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa, appointed The Honourable J. Douglas Cunningham, QC, former Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, to conduct the review of Ontario’s dispute resolution system. This review is part of the government’s overall plan to reduce auto insurance rates in the province.
Mr. Cunningham completed and released an interim report in October 2013. Following the release of this interim report, there was a call for further submissions from auto insurance stakeholders. Thirty-three written submissions were received. As was mentioned in the report, there is disagreement—especially between the insurance industry and the plaintiff bar—concerning the reasons for the current problems within the DRS, the extent of these problems, and the need for reforms. The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) submitted its response to the interim report on December 2, 2013. OTLA’s submission can be found here: OTLA’s Submission on the Interim Report of the DRS Review.
The final report contemplates the DRS principles of timeliness, proportionality, accessibility, predictability, streamlining, costs and culture before making recommendations to overhaul the existing system. Perhaps the most notable recommendation is for the implementation of a public sector administrative tribunal to deal with SABS disputes. The new model would fall under a minister, rather than the superintendent of financial services, and arbitrators would be appointed by order-in-council on the recommendation of that minister. Cunningham envisions that the tribunal be funded through “application fees, with the possibility of a portion of funding coming from insurance industry assessments.” In addition, it is recommended that appeals of arbitration hearing decisions be heard by a single judge of the Ontario Superior Court instead of the current system of appeals to the Director’s Delegates.
The Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa, released a statement on the final report of the DRS review on February 18, 2014. In it, Mr. Sousa, confirms that the “government will carefully review the final report and, where appropriate, introduce legislation based on the recommendations. It remains to be seen how many of the 28 recommendations will be implemented.
Contributed by Erin Ellis, an OTLA member and a lawyer practising with Jellinek Law Office in Toronto, Ont.