Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Company of Canada, 2022 ONCA 806


Full Details

In this case, the respondent, Beaudin was driving his dirt bike at a closed course motorcross competition when he was severely injured in an incident, rendering him a paraplegic. His dirt bike was not listed as insured under Travelers’ policy or any other policy. Travelers denied coverage on the basis that Beaudin was not involved in an accident because his dirt bike was not an “automobile” within the meaning of s. 224 of the Insurance Act and s. 3(1) of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) which states an accident must involve an automobile.

At the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT), Beaudin was found not to be entitled to accident benefits however, on reconsideration, the Associate Chair found him eligible. Travelers appealed to the Divisional Court which dismissed the appeal. The appeal before the Court of Appeal depended on whether the dirt bike was exempt from the insurance requirement of the Off-Road Vehicles Act (ORVA) pursuant to s. 2(1)5 of Regulation 863. The determination turned on whether the exemption under the Act was restricted to closed course competitions sponsored by a motorcycle association.

The Court of Appeal dismissed Travelers’ appeal, finding that the Divisional Court was correct in finding that the ORVA exemption applies only to sponsored competitions – meaning that the dirt bike was not exempt from the ORVA and Beaudin was driving an automobile at the time of the incident.

The SABS does not include a definition of automobile thus, a three-part test applies to determine whether the motor vehicle qualifies as an automobile: (i) is the vehicle an automobile in ordinary parlance? (ii) if not, is it defined as an automobile under the insurance policy? (iii) if not, does the vehicle fall within any enlarged definition of automobile in a relevant statute? See Adams v. Pineland Amusements Ltd., 2007 ONCA 844 at para. 7 and Benson v. Belair Insurance Company, 2019 ONCA 840 at para. 25. In this case, the determination of whether the dirt bike qualified as an automobile rested on whether the dirt bike fell within “any enlarged definition of automobile in a relevant statute.”

Section 224 of the Insurance Act defines an automobile to include a motor vehicle required under any Act to be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy. This requirement of insurance for motor vehicles is also found in the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act, the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act and the ORVA, the applicable statute in this case.

Section 15(1) of the ORVA requires drivers of off-road vehicles to be insured with the exemption that they are not required to be insured where the vehicle is driven on land occupied by the owner of the vehicle. Section 23 of the ORVA also permits the Minister to make regulations to exempt any class from any and all provisions of the Act. Among these exemptions are off-road vehicles driven or exhibited at a closed course competition or rally sponsored by a motorcycle association under s. 15(9).

While the LAT originally agreed with Travelers that the dirt bike driven in any closed course competition was not an automobile under the Insurance Act, on reconsideration, the LAT found that only closed course competitions and rallies that were sponsored by a motorcycle association were exempt from the provisions of the ORVA and exempt from the requirement of being insured. The Divisional Court agreed that insurance is not required for off-road vehicles which are driven on an owner’s property and those vehicles that are under the exempt class of vehicles.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the Divisional Court that the words of an Act are to be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense within the overall scheme and object of the Act and the intention of Parliament. The ORVA is just one piece of a comprehensive scheme of automobile insurance which must be read harmoniously with other legislation that makes up the scheme. The goal of automobile insurance is to protect victims of accidents/collisions by promoting universal coverage with only a few exceptions – one being sponsored closed course competitions. The Court of Appeal concluded that the legislature likely chose a sponsorship requirement for organized events such as closed course competitions and rallies as the basis for exemption from the requirements of the ORVA because motorcycle associations would ensure basic safety protocols are in place and would promote the control and identification of off-road vehicles in competition.

Accordingly, the Court of Appeal dismissed Travelers’ appeal and concluded that the ORVA exemption applies only to sponsored competitions. As such, the dirt bike in question was not exempt from the ORVA and Beaudin was found to be driving an automobile at the time of the incident.

Written by

Called to the bar in 2009 and having successfully passed the Ontario, Michigan and US multistate bar exams, Samia M. Alam is a contract lawyer for plaintiff personal injury law firms in the Hamilton and surrounding areas with a special focus on catastrophic impairment claims. She also has been teaching at Mohawk College since the inception of the paralegal program in 2014 and teaches Legal Research and Writing, Statutory Accident Benefits and Tribunals Practice and Procedure. She is received her LL.M at Osgoode Hall Law School, and she is a member of the Hamilton Law Association and Ontario Trial Lawyer's Association.