Michael Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Company of Canada

Full Decision

The Licence Appeal Tribunal has determined that an injury at a privately-organized motocross competition is an “accident” and that the injured party is, therefore, entitled to accident benefits from his insurer.

In the Reconsideration Decision Michael Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Company of Canada [17-006174/AABS], Associate Chair Jonathan Batty agreed with Michael Beaudin, who was rendered with paraplegia as a result of an injury at a motocross event, that the adjudicator of the original decision had erred in the interpretation of the relevant statues and regulations. Mr. Beaudin was represented by Peter Cho, assisted by Chris Jackson, of Smitiuch Injury Law.

In law, generally, anyone injured in a vehicle that requires automobile insurance is eligible to receive accident benefits. This includes anyone injured on off-road vehicles driven in Ontario, subject to certain statutory exclusions. On July 9, 2017, Mr. Beaudin suffered catastrophic injuries while operating a dirt bike at a closed course competition and he sought accident benefits from his insurer, Travelers Insurance. Travelers denied Mr. Beaudin entitlement to accident benefits based on a narrow interpretation of an exclusionary clause found under ss.2(1) in O. Reg 863 to the Off-Road Vehicles Act. The subsection states that an exemption for insurance exists for “off-road vehicles driven or exhibited at a closed course competition or rally sponsored by a motorcycle association.” Travelers argued that the subsection ought to be read that the qualifying language “sponsored by a motorcycle association”, only applied to the second event (“rally”) and not to the first event (“closed course competitions”). They argued that the last antecedent rule ought to be applied to interpret the statute, thereby eliminating entitlement to accident benefits to anyone operating an off-road vehicle at all closed course competitions. Mr. Beaudin argued that the statute ought to be read such that the requirement of being sponsored by a motorcycle association applies to off-road vehicles being driven at both types of events. Travelers also argued that Mr. Beaudin bears the onus to prove the statutory exclusion does not apply. On October 17, 2018, the Tribunal initially ruled in favour of Travelers and found that the exclusion applied, denying Mr. Beaudin access to accident benefits.

Mr. Beaudin applied for reconsideration of the Tribunal’s decision. The reconsideration decision was released on September 27, 2019. In the reconsideration decision, Associate Chair Jonathan Batty, agreed with the Applicant and reversed the Tribunal’s initial decision, rejecting Travelers’ interpretation of the statute and accepting that the qualifying language “sponsored by a motorcycle association” ought to apply to both types of events as this accords with the purpose and intent of the statute, the Off-Road Vehicles Act and the automobile insurance regime in Ontario.

With respect to the question of whether Mr. Beaudin was involved in an “accident”, it was agreed amongst the parties that the Applicant was operating an off-road vehicle when the accident occurred, and that the off-road vehicle generally had to be insured (subject to the single exclusion). As Associate Chair Batty noted, the argument between the parties was really about an exclusion and whether it applied given where the off-road vehicle was operated, and not about coverage. Associate Chair Batty applied the test in Ledcor to interpret the statutory exclusion and noted that at the second step, the onus was on the insurer to prove that the exclusion applies. Associate Chair Batty concluded that Travelers did not satisfy their onus and reversed the initial decision. Associate Chair Batty relied upon the preferred approach to statutory interpretation set out in Bell ExpressVu, over the last antecedent rule approach taken by Travelers. The Chair also concluded that reading of the statute with the qualifying language applying to both events was consistent with the approach in Ledcor and with the purpose and context of the Off-Road Vehicles Act. The Chair also noted that, in order for the statutory exclusion to apply, the event must be sponsored by a motorcycle association, and if that is not determined, it was the end of the analysis and the exclusion cannot apply.

In light of the above, Associate Chair Batty concluded, “Had these errors not been made, the Tribunal would like have reached a different decision on the preliminary motion…” Mr. Beaudin’s Request for Reconsideration was granted and he was found not to be excluded from receiving accident benefits under the Schedule.

This Reconsideration decision provides guidance on how to deal with exclusionary policies generally, as well as cases where injuries arise from the use of off-road vehicles in organized events such as closed course competitions and rallies.

Peter Cho
Written by

Peter Cho is an Associate Lawyer with Smitiuch Injury Law in Toronto, Ontario. He has dedicated his practice to representing Plaintiffs who have been wrongfully injured or killed. Peter obtained his J.D. from Osgoode Hall and was called to the Ontario bar in 2011.

Peter was acknowledged by the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) for his work as a trial lawyer and was presented with the 2016 Martin Wunder, Q.C. Outstanding New Lawyer Award.