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ICBC Not Required To Pay For Injuries To Designated Driver

In Felix v Insurance Corporation of British Columbia 2014 BCSC 166 the BC Supreme Court recently held that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia did not have to pay a substantial judgment obtained by an injured motorist against their drunk passenger. The plaintiff was injured when her intoxicated boyfriend, who was sitting in the passenger seat of her vehicle, grabbed the vehicle’s steering wheel and caused a serious accident. The boyfriend died at the scene. The plaintiff obtained judgment against the estate of her boyfriend for more than $750,000. The estate could not pay it, and her attempt to collect this from ICBC was unsuccessful.

The motorist argued that the insurance of the vehicle owner extended liability coverage to her passenger. ICBC argued that the accident did not occur as a result of the use and operation of a vehicle, because the boyfriend did not intend to take control of the vehicle.

The court held that the passenger was not engaged in the use and operation of a vehicle. Although the legislation would have required ICBC to pay the judgment if the plaintiff had not been an occupant of the vehicle (e.g. a pedestrian), it did not require ICBC to pay because in this case the plaintiff was an occupant of the vehicle.

The court acknowledged the disturbing consequences of this interpretation for designated drivers, who will be left without satisfaction of a judgment unless their drunk interfering passengers have substantial assets, and indicated that the government would have to alter the legislation to change the result.

Case review prepared by: Fareeha Qaiser and Chelsea Lott