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AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE - Compulsory government schemes - Claims against parties unknown

Tuesday, November 03, 2020 @ 6:30 AM  

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Appeal by ICBC from a judgment finding the defendant, Vanstone, vicariously liable for a collision involving the plaintiff, Megaro. Vanstone owned a vehicle that collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle. The driver of Vanstone’s vehicle left the scene and their identity remained unknown. The plaintiff sought compensation for serious injuries. He sued Vanstone, ICBC, John Doe and Khatra as parties. He alleged that Vanstone either gave John Doe or Khatra consent to drive his vehicle and therefore was vicariously liable pursuant to s. 86 of the Motor Vehicle Act. The trial judge found that the driver of Vanstone’s vehicle was the sole cause of the collision through negligence. The judge did not determine the driver’s identity but concluded that it was one of three friends who were with Vanstone at a nightclub earlier in the evening, and that it could be inferred one of the three had express or implied permission from Vanstone to drive. Judgment was entered against Vanstone for the plaintiff’s damages. ICBC appealed. It alleged that Vanstone breached material terms of his insurance, and that the trial judge erred in drawing inferences with respect to identity and consent that were not capable of support by admissible evidence and were not proven on the facts.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The inferences drawn by the trial judge were properly available based on accepted facts reasonably supported by the evidence. The timing of the accident, its proximity to the nightclub attended by Vanstone and his friends, and the timing of Vanstone’s departure supported the conclusion that the driver was one of Vanstone’s friends. No evidence contradicted the witnesses who testified that Vanstone mentioned letting a friend take his vehicle. The judge was entitled to use those statements for circumstantial non-hearsay purposes. The evidence supported the inference that Vanstone sought to protect himself and/or a friend. There was no basis to interfere with the conclusion that Vanstone gave his keys to one of the three friends he left at the nightclub, and that whichever friend drove had Vanstone’s implied consent to do so.

Megaro v. Vanstone, [2020] B.C.J. No. 1561, British Columbia Court of Appeal, M.E. Saunders, G.J. Fitch and J.C. Grauer JJ.A., October 7, 2020. Digest No. TLD-November22020004