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INSURERS - Duty to defend

Monday, July 06, 2020 @ 9:37 AM  


Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
Appeal by the insured from a judgment finding exclusion from coverage under a homeowner insurance policy with the respondent. The appellants included a couple and their son. The son attended a high school graduation party at a Quebec club. A physical altercation ensued between two groups, with one individual suffering injuries. Police attended, but no criminal charges were laid. A civil action by the injured party against the son, his parents and his friends sought damages for assault. The insurer agreed to defend the parents but refused to defend the son on the basis that assault allegations were excluded from coverage under the policy. The appellants appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The French version of the policy offered a significantly broader scope of coverage than the English version and did not limit coverage to accidental injuries. Resolving the inconsistency in favour of the insured, the insurer provided personal liability protection if sued for bodily injury or property damage anywhere in the world. Both versions addressed the notion of unintended injury, without qualifying the nature of the action as being accidental or intentional. The policy left the insurer responsible for defence costs and damages if the injury was unintended. The applicable exclusion provision was inconsistent between its French and English versions. Under the French version, intentional acts were not excluded unless they constituted criminal acts. Therefore, the claim advanced against the son was covered by the policy. The decision below was set aside and replaced with a declaration that the insurer had a duty to defend.

Chiasson v. Intact Insurance Co., [2020] N.B.J. No. 112, New Brunswick Court of Appeal, J.C.M. Richard C.J.N.B., K.A. Quigg and C.A. LeBlond JJ.A., June 4, 2020. Digest No. TLD-July62020002