Written by Nick Todorovic, and Mandeep Tamber, Student-At-Law
The Court of Appeal for Ontario has affirmed the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s decision to grant a motion for summary judgment.
On March 29, 2014, Tyler Drenth 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 suffered serious personal injuries. The passenger suffered paraplegia.
The ATV was insured by Novex Insurance Company through Tyler’s father. Tyler had his G1 license at the time and was convicted under the Highway Traffic Act for driving an ATV on a highway and operating a vehicle on a highway without a proper license.
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 Tyler to drive the ATV when he knew or ought to have known that Tyler would drive on a highway in breach of the policy.
The Court found that although the father had given Tyler consent to drive the ATV on a highway on the day of the collision, Tyler 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.
The nature of the consent given to Tyler by his father was the central issue in this motion. The first question was whether his father’s specific consent to ride the ATV on a very specific roadway was relevant to the consent issue of Tyler taking an alternative route before he was involved in a collision. The second question was whether Tyler’s father knowing he would drive on a highway constituted a breach that voided coverage for the entire trip. Justice Edwards found that Tyler’s diversion did not result in his father breaching statutory condition 4(1) for the entire trip and therefore he was not out of luck with his insurance coverage.
The insurer appealed the motion judge’s findings on the basis that the judge erred on the question of permission to drive the ATV on the day of the collision.
The Court of Appeal decided that Justice Edwards made no mistake when Tyler was entitled to coverage under the policy. The Court of Appeal highlighted that Justice Edwards’ findings were not flawed and the decision was made based on a correct line of reasoning. It was specifically noted that Tyler’s father was not in breach at the time of the collision because:
- The ATV’s keys were under lock and in the shed.
- Only Tyler’s father had the key.
- Whenever Tyler wanted to use an ATV, he had to have his father’s permission.
- Tyler’s father knew that Tyler could not drive unaccompanied on a highway because he only had a G1 license.
Why is this decision important?
Justice Edwards specifically noted that Tyler’s father had given him very specific consent with respect to using the ATV. He was to do the following:
- Drive the ATV from their residence to Central Lane to get to the open field
- Drive to his friend’s stuck ATV and retrieve it
- Make his way back home
The fact that Tyler made a few pit stops, and picked up a passenger was a deviation from the agenda his father thought he was following. The Court of Appeal accepted that Tyler’s father did not give Tyler permission to drive on a highway despite allowing him to drive on Central Lane, a road that the court accepted his father did not know to be a highway. Therefore, the full limits of the father’s policy were available to him at the time of the collision.
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.