Injuries incurred during a robbery involving a motor vehicle are covered by the motor vehicle policy

22. October 2008 0

The Court found that a motor vehicle used in commission of a robbery falls under use or operation of a motor vehicle when a pedestrian victim is dragged by the shoulder strap of her purse suffering personal injuries after a passenger in a passing van reaches out of the window and grabs it.

Hannah v. John Doe, [2008] B.C.J. No. 1580, Supreme Court of British Columbia, A.F. Cullen, J., August 20, 2008

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (“ICBC”) brought an application for summary judgment dismissing the Plaintiff’s claim against ICBC, which was brought pursuant to British Columbia’s “Hit and Run” legislation.

The Plaintiff had been shopping and was returning her shopping cart to the stall when a van drove past her. As it did so, the passenger reached out of the window grabbed her purse strap and, as the van accelerated away, the Plaintiff was pulled backwards and hit her head on the pavement.  The van did not run into or bump her. The Plaintiff was dragged a short distance before the purse ripped.

ICBC’s main argument was that the injuries to the Plaintiff did not arise out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle as those terms are used in the relevant legislation and case law.

The court reviewed the law  in some detail. Particular attention was paid to the reasons of the Supreme Court of Canada in the joint cases of Citadel General Assurance Co. v. Vytlingam, 2007 SCC 46 and Lumberman’s Mutual Casualty Co. v. Herbison, 2007 SCC 47. The court found that the act of dropping rocks from an overpass was severable from the use or operation of the motor vehicle, even though the motor vehicle had been used to transport the rocks to the overpass.  Similarly, in Lumberman’s, the tort feasor had used his vehicle to travel to hunting grounds, and en route, stopped the vehicle, got out and shot what he thought was a deer, but turned out to be another hunter. The Supreme Court of Canada found that the act of shooting the hunter was severable from the act of driving to the location where the hunter was shot.

The court distinguished these decisions and found that in the present case, the motor vehicle was used as a motor vehicle, notwithstanding that it was used in the commission of the offence of robbery and the civil tort of assault.  The court found that unlike in Citadel and Lumberman’s, the act causing the alleged injury to the Plaintiff was directly caused, and not isolated from, or severed from the use of a vehicle as a vehicle.  In this case, the evidence was that the passenger in the vehicle grabbed the Plaintiff’s purse, which she was carrying on her shoulder, the driver accelerated the vehicle, and it was that acceleration in combination with the passenger’s grip on the Plaintiff’s purse that caused her to fall to the ground and to be dragged by the vehicle as it accelerated away. The court found that there was a clear causal link between the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle and the injuries alleged by the Plaintiff.

This case was originally summarized by Cameron B. Elder and originally edited by David W. Pilley.

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