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Court of Appeal Finds Designated Driver Entitled to Compensation From ICBC

In Felix v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia 2015 BCCA 394 the BC Court of Appeal overturned the BC Supreme Court’s decision that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia did not have to pay a substantial judgment obtained by an injured motorist against a drunk passenger. The plaintiff had been injured while driving her intoxicated boyfriend home from his soccer game. The boyfriend had grabbed the steering wheel while they were travelling on the highway, causing the vehicle to crash. He died in the crash and the plaintiff was seriously injured.

The plaintiff obtained judgment for nearly $800,000 against the estate of her boyfriend. She then pursued ICBC to indemnify her for the judgment. At issue was whether the boyfriend was “an insured” under ICBC’s policy. The question turned on whether the boyfriend’s actions amounted to “use” of a motor vehicle.

The Supreme Court had found that the government would need to amend the legislation to result in coverage for this case, but the Court of Appeal disagreed. The Appellate Court considered the purpose of the legislation, which was to provide for a universal, compulsory insurance program and access to compensation for those injured in motor vehicle accidents. With this purpose in mind, the Court held that being a passenger in a motor vehicle was an ordinary and well known “use” of a vehicle and that it did not matter whether the passenger intended to take control of the car. By intentionally grabbing the wheel he was “using” the vehicle, and was therefore insured by ICBC. The plaintiff was entitled to collect her judgment.

A summary of the BC Supreme Court decision can be found on our website.

Case law summary by: Chelsea Lott