A sandbar is not a highway

12. February 2019 0

Insurance law – Automobile insurance – Unidentified motorist – Statutory provisions – Practice – Appeals – Summary judgments

Adam v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, [2018] B.C.J. No. 6943, 2018 BCCA 482, British Columbia Court of Appeal, December 20, 2018, S.D. Frankel, K.C. Mackenzie and D.C. Harris JJ.A.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal heard an appeal from a summary trial application in which the issue was whether a sandbar on the Fraser River is a “highway” for the purposes of s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.

The plaintiff brought an action against ICBC under the unidentified motorist provisions of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act in respect of injuries he sustained as a result of a collision with an unidentified motorist. The accident occurred on a sandbar of the Fraser River in Chilliwack. The sandbar is approximately one kilometre wide and consists of sand and gravel. It is accessed by a road. The sandbar is used by vehicles to park, fish and camp along the Fraser River. On the day of the accident, the plaintiff was struck by an unidentified white jeep following an attempt to steal his cooler from the location where he was parked in his camper.

At the summary trial, the judge accepted the plaintiff’s argument that the sandbar was a “public way” bringing it within the definition of “highway” under the Transportation Act. The sandbar could be so characterized because the vehicles “traversed” it to access fishing areas.

The Court of Appeal concluded the trial judge erred in finding the sandbar was a highway within the meaning of s.24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. The Court of Appeal held that such an interpretation was too expansive and could be applied to essentially every location in British Columbia where people can drive motor vehicles. As a result, the appeal was allowed and the plaintiff’s action for personal injury against ICBC was dismissed.

This case was digested by Cameron B. Elder, and first published in the LexisNexis® Harper Grey Insurance Law Netletter and the Harper Grey Insurance Law Newsletter. If you would like to discuss this case further, please contact Cameron B. Elder at celder@harpergrey.com.

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