Absolute Liability Applies Even Where Injury Caused Intentionally

The Court of Appeal has just released a decision that is important to anyone working in the area of automobile tort litigation. The case is Joachin v. Abel. The plaintiffs in that case had been injured when the defendant Abel intentionally struck them with an automobile insured by Halifax (as it then was). In an earlier ruling in this action, a court had held that s. 118 of the Insurance Act (which provides that there is no right of indemnity in the case of a criminal act) meant that Halifax did not have to defend or indemnify Abel in relation to the plaintiffs’ claims.

However, it had also been held (in another earlier decision, the one from which this appeal was taken), that the “absolute liability” provisions of s. 258 of the Insurance Act meant that Halifax still had to pay the first $200,000 of the plaintiffs’ claims. In today’s ruling, the Court of Appeal upheld this decision.

It is now clear that intentional use of an automobile to injure will still oblige the liability insurer to pay up to $200,000 to the injured party under the “absolute liability” provisions of s. 258.

The Court of Appeal did make it clear that use of an automobile without consent of the owner is still something for which there is no coverage and which does not attract absolute liability. This is about the only situation left in which absolute liability does not apply.

We hope you find this update useful.

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