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01 Jul 2019

Adult daughter who lived with mother and paid rent, considered tenant under homeowners policy

by Admin
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Traders General Insurance Co. v. Gibson, [2019] O.J. No. 1261, 2019 ONSC 1599

Betty Gibson lived with her mother Elizabeth all of her life with the exception of a 10-month period when she moved to Kingston, Ontario as a young adult in the 1970s. After high school, Betty started paying $200 in rent per month to her mother. This eventually increased to $400 per month. Betty also helped around the house with chores.

On March 31, 2014, Betty was on the porch of the home. Elizabeth was sweeping below the porch. Elizabeth then handed the broom up to Betty who leaned over the railing to get the broom. While bending over the railing, the railing collapsed, sending Betty over the side of the porch with the railing falling behind her. As a result, Betty sued her mother and the contractor who built the porch.

The mother’s home insurer applied for a declaration from the Court that they were not required to defend or indemnify her for this loss.  The insurance policy provided an exclusion for liability coverage for injuries suffered by the insured or anyone living with the insured, other than a residence employee.

The mother argued that Betty was a residence employee or alternatively was a tenant and that the exclusion in question did not apply. 

Although tenants were not mentioned in the policy, Justice C.J. Brown of the Ontario Superior Court Elizabeth stated that Elizabeth had reasonable expectations that she would have liability coverage for injuries or loss suffered in the home by tenants.  The Court found that barring a specific exclusion to the contrary, that Elizabeth would be covered for liability for injuries suffered by a tenant.

The Court rejected the argument that Betty was a residence employee, but due to the fact that she was paying rent, the Court found that Betty was a tenant. As such, the application was dismissed and the insurer was ordered to defend and indemnify Elizabeth.

You can read Traders General Insurance Co. v. Gibson, [2019] O.J. No. 1261, 2019 ONSC 1599 in its entirety here.

At Foster & Company, we represent institutions and individuals looking for help understanding insurance coverages and responding to claims. Contact us by phone at 506-462-4000 or reach us online for advice.