Written by: Lindsay Charles and Mandeep Tamber, Student-At-Law
There is nothing like a sunny day on an Ontario lake in the summer. Unfortunately, summer days basking in the sun are sometimes interrupted when someone gets hurt on the water. If you, or someone you love, is injured on a boat, the damages they sustained are subject to the Marine Liability Act (MLA).
Keep reading to learn more about the Act and how it may apply to your unique situation.
The Marine Liability Act (MLA) came into force in 2001 and outlines various limitations on liability in accordance with the Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976 (the “Convention”). Under Article 2 of the Convention, claims that are subject to limitation include:
- Personal injury and property damage occurring on board or in connection with a ship;
- Loss resulting from delay in the carriage of cargo, passengers, or luggage;
- Destruction of or rendering harmless of a ship that is sunk, wrecked, stranded or abandoned.
Section 29 of the MLA provides that:
29 The maximum liability for maritime claims that arise on any distinct occasion involving a ship of less than 300 gross tonnages, other than claims referred to in section 28, is:
- $1,000,000 in respect of claims for loss of life or personal injury (now $1,500,000, as of June 23, 2023) and;
- $500,000 in respect of any other claims (now $750,000, as of June 23, 2023).
Under the MLA, “maritime claims” are those described in Article 2, laid out above. Section 29 and Article 2 interact together to create a cap on the amount an injured person or a deceased person’s family can collect from a party that negligently caused the injuries and/or death. This cap is set at $1,500,000.00.
The issue of whether these caps include or exclude an amount for costs and/or interest has been a contentious one.
The confusion has come to an end now that the Ontario Court of Appeal has confirmed that costs and interest are in fact separate from the maximum liability for a maritime claim.
The Court of Appeal has recently affirmed a motion judge’s decision to exclude costs and interest from the monetary limitation found in s.29(a) of the MLA. Put another way, parties injured or killed in a boat incident have access to the full $1,500,00.00 without allocating any of the already limited funds to cost and interest.
In coming to their decision, the motion Judge cited Elmer Driedger in Construction of Statutes, 2nd ed (Toronto: Butterworth, 1983), at p. 87 to support his decision: “today there is only one principle or approach, namely, the words of an Act are to be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object if the act, and the intention of Parliament.” This principle is widely cited and also adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada in Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes (1998) and more recently by the Ontario Court of Appeal in Ontario v. Norwood Estate (2021).
The motion Judge further stated that the words of the provision must be read together and not individually. By this logic, it is clear that a claim for costs and a claim for prejudgment interest each serve a different purpose and seek to protect a different interest than a claim for loss or personal injury. The two do not overlap in a way that allows costs and interests to seep into the recovery of a personal injury. It could not have been the intention of parliament to include cost and interest in the maximum liability for maritime claims. Therefore, “In consideration of the words of the statute as informed by its history, context and purpose, I determine that the monetary limitation in s. 29(a) of the Marine Liability Act is exclusive of costs and interests”.
The motion Judge indicated that the role of costs and interest is separate from the role of claims for loss of life or personal injury. The Court of Appeal agrees.
Further, Justice Hourigan, writing for the court, stated “If costs are included in a legislated cap, then defendants and their insurers are effectively playing with “house money and have less incentive to act reasonably. If defendants and their insurers want to achieve a measure of certainty about their exposure and keep costs down, they should focus on resolving cases where they can and litigating cases in a responsible and cost-effective manner.”
To conclude, the Ontario Court of Appeal has affirmed that the cap for maritime claims does not automatically include an amount for costs and interest; and that these claims are separate and distinct from claims for loss of life or personal injury. Therefore, this allows maritime litigants to access the full amount of $1,500,000 for the death of a loved one and/or personal injuries they have sustained.
Have you been injured while on a boat? To learn more, read “Boating Accidents: Accessing Compensation and Compensation Limits”. This blog sets out the types of losses that are eligible for compensation and how McLeish Orlando Lawyers can help you obtain that compensation. Contact our personal injury lawyers for a free consultation today.
 Algra v. Comrie Estate 2022 ONSC 4637 para 26
 Algra v. Comrie Estate 2022 ONSC 4637 para 31
 Algra v. Comrie Estate, 2023 ONCA 81 40-41