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Inconsistencies between French and English Versions of Policy Result in Insurer’s Duty to Defend

Chiasson et al. v. Intact Insurance Company, 2020 NBCA 37

Jean-Francois Chiasson attended a high school graduation party at an establishment known as the ‘Beach Club’ in Pointe-Calumet, Quebec. A physical altercation ensued between two groups, with one individual suffering injuries. Police attended but did not lay criminal charges.

The injured party brought a civil action against Jean-Francois, his parents Hector and Anna Chiasson, and several others.  Intact Insurance Company, the Chiassons’ home insurer, agreed to defend Hector and Anna but refused to defend Jean-Francois.  Intact refused to defend Jean-Francois on the grounds that assault was not covered under the policy.

Jean-Francois applied for an order that Intact defend him.  However, the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench dismissed the application.

Jean-Francois appealed. The New Brunswick Court of Appeal allowed the appeal.

The English version of the policy excluded coverage for claims arising from bodily injury or property damage caused by either an intentional act, a criminal act or a criminal failure to act.  The French version provided a significantly broader scope of coverage.  Under the French version, intentional acts were not excluded from coverage unless they were criminal.

The Court of Appeal stated that the ambiguity created between the English and French versions must be resolved in the insured’s favour.  Because Jean-Francois was not charged with a crime, the Court of Appeal declared that Intact must defend him in the action.

You can read Chiasson et al. v. Intact Insurance Company, 2020 NBCA 37 in its entirety here.

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