Pridmore v Drenth, 2023 ONSC 817
Written By: Aidan Vining and Cody Malloy, Student-at-Law
In this recent summary judgment decision, a father granted his son permission to drive his ATV across a highway in order to access off-road trails. However, driving the ATV on the highway constituted a breach of a statutory condition of the father’s insurance. When the son crashed the ATV on a different highway, the insurer took the position that coverage was denied on the basis that the father permitted his son to drive on highways in breach of his policy. In Pridmore v Drenth, 2023 ONSC 817, Justice Edwards held that the father only permitted his son to drive on one specific highway, and that this breach “does not taint the entire trip.” As such, the father’s third-party insurance coverage should not be denied.
Facts & Background
On March 29, 2014, the son was driving an ATV owned by his father with a passenger. They were driving through a snow squall on Bird Road in Dunnville, Ontario, when the ATV rolled over and the son and his passenger suffered personal injuries.
The ATV was insured by the Third Party insurer, Novex Insurance Company, pursuant to the father’s standard Ontario automobile policy. The son had his G1 license at the time and was convicted under the Highway Traffic Act for driving the ATV on a highway and operating a vehicle on a highway without a proper licence.
Counsel for the passenger brought a summary judgment motion against the insurer for a judgment declaring the full third-party limits were available to the father at the time of the crash. The insurer’s position was that they were correct to deny coverage because the father permitted his son to drive the ATV when he knew or ought to have known that his son would drive on a highway in breach of the policy.
The Court found that although the father had given his son consent to drive the ATV on a highway on the day of the collision, the son did not have broad consent to drive the ATV on any “highway” under the Highway Traffic Act at the time of the collision, and therefore the insurer was incorrect to deny coverage.
Law Regarding Driver’s Licenses
The Court noted the following relevant law with regards to driver’s licenses:
 The Highway Traffic Act governs driving motor vehicles on Ontario highways. Section 32 of the Highway Traffic Act prohibits anyone from driving a motor vehicle on a highway unless they have a proper driver’s licence, and subsection 32(9) prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle on a highway, while contravening a condition contained in their driver’s licence or imposed by the regulations.
 According to S.1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, a “highway” includes “common and public highway, street, avenue, parkway, driveway, square, place, bridge, viaduct or trestle, any part of which is intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles and includes the area between the lateral property lines thereof”.
 A “highway” includes the shoulder of the road.
The Insurance Policy
The Court also noted the following with regards to Novex’s insurance policy:
 The Novex Policy is governed by Part VI of the Insurance Act and applicable Regulations. The policy contains Statutory Conditions pursuant to section 234 of the Insurance Act. Statutory Condition 4(1) states:
“The insured shall not drive or operate or permit any other person to drive or operate the automobile unless the insured or other person is authorized by law to drive or operates it.”
 If a driver breaches a condition of their driver’s licence, then they are not authorized by law to drive within the meaning of the automobile policy.
Positions of the Parties
The passenger’s position was that the sole issue to be determined was whether the father permitted his son to drive the ATV on a highway at the time of the incident when he was not authorized by law to do so.
The insurer’s position was that the father permitted his son to drive the ATV when he knew or ought to have known that his son was operating the ATV in breach of a statutory condition on a highway, and therefore coverage should be denied. The insurer conceded that whether the father breached Statutory Condition 4(1) is a separate question from whether the son breached Statutory Condition 4(1), and a breach of Statutory Condition 4(1) must occur at the time of the incident for coverage to be lost.
The Court first found that the son breached Statutory Condition 4(1) for the following reasons:
- The son drove the ATV on a “highway”
- The son breached his license conditions by driving on a “highway” after consuming alcohol
The Court then determined that the father ought to have known his son would breach Statutory Condition 4(1) when he consented to his son driving the ATV on Central Lane with a G1 license on the day of the incident. However, the insurer can only deny coverage if the breach of Statutory Condition 4(1) happened at the specific time of the collision.
The Court next considered the nature of the consent given to the son. The Court found that the father gave his son clear consent to drive the ATV from their house onto Central Lane (a “highway”) to the open field and trails. The Court noted the son did not have consent from his father to drive on the shoulder of roads or on highways (except for the purpose of crossing the road to access a trail).
Justice Edwards found the father’s consent to be very clear and defined:
 I find that Theodore did not know and ought not to have known that Tyler would drive on any highway other than Central Lane. Tyler drove on the shoulder of Bird Road without Theodore’s consent, and contrary to the terms of the consent that he had received from his father.
The father’s breach of Statutory Condition 4(1) was limited to permitting his son to drive on Central Lane. This permission did not void coverage for the entire trip because Statutory Condition 4(1) was not breached at the time of the collision since it happened on Bird Road. Therefore, the full limits of the father’s policy with Novex were available to the father at the time of the crash.
This decision provides valuable insight into the issues of consent and off-road vehicles. If you or a loved one have been injured in an ATV crash, contact one of our Toronto personal injury lawyers for a free consultation to discuss next steps.