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AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE - Compulsory government schemes - No fault regimes

Wednesday, August 19, 2020 @ 8:51 AM  

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Appeal by the defendant from a decision allowing the respondents to proceed with their personal injury action pursuant to s. 104 of the Automobile Accident Insurance Act on the basis that the appellant was convicted of impaired driving because of the collision with the respondents. The same vehicle was observed driving erratically at three different times on the same day. The collision with the respondents occurred midday. Three hours later the appellant was arrested for impaired driving after the last incident of erratic driving. The appellant subsequently pleaded guilty. In his statement of defence, the appellant denied that he was convicted of impaired driving. In his affidavit he argued he was only charged with impaired driving for his actions in relation to the time of his arrest and that the arresting officer did not inform him that his arrest related to anything that had transpired earlier in the day. In pleading guilty to this charge, the appellant claimed he believed he had only admitted to the essential elements of the offence that occurred just prior to his arrest and specifically denied driving while impaired at the time of the collision. The chambers judge relied on the sentencing transcript and concluded that while the charges did not stipulate the time of day or location where the offence occurred, it should have been obvious to the appellant from the Crown’s sentencing submissions that the scope of the charges was broader than just the events surrounding the time of his arrest. The chambers judge then proceeded to treat the appellant’s lack of objection to the Crown’s submissions as admissions of fact.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The chambers judge misinterpreted the nature of the proceedings that took place before the sentencing judge which led him to conclude that what the appellant said or did not say amounted to an admission of the facts as alleged by the Crown. There was no obvious legal basis for the chambers judge to treat what was said or omitted to be said at the sentencing hearing as an admission by the appellant beyond its utility for sentencing. The sentencing transcript did not disclose the essential facts of the offence the appellant admitted to when he pleaded guilty. It was thus not open to the chambers judge to accept as fact that the appellant was driving while impaired at the time of the collision for the purposes of conviction. Even if the Crown’s assertions during the sentencing hearing regarding the collision were accepted as fact, they did not establish that the appellant was impaired at the time of the collision. Even if it was proper for the chambers judge to use the sentencing submissions as an admission of fact and for the truth of their content in the subsequent civil proceeding, the sentencing transcript did not support that the trial judge had convicted the appellant for impaired driving in relation to his actions at or around the time of the collision. The sentencing submissions only established that the appellant’s vehicle was involved in a hit-and-run on that date, not that the appellant was impaired at the time. The chambers judge disregarded the content of the police report which was highly probative and based his conclusion on an erroneous inference drawn from what he interpreted the sentencing judge determined.

Thomas v. Quinlan, [2020] S.J. No. 267, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, R.K. Ottenbreit, L.M. Schwann and J.D. Kalmakoff JJ.A., July 8, 2020. Digest No. TLD-August172020005