William Frank Ralph O/A Motorwerks et al. v. The Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, 2023 MBKB 116
Reading time: 5 minutes (approx.)
By: Alexandre Doucet (Articled Clerk)
Mr. and Ms. Ralph (the Plaintiffs) owned a 2009 Dodge Ram truck which was damaged in a tornado in a rural area of Manitoba in August 2018. Mr. Ralph was a vehicle dealer, and a dealer’s plate was affixed to the truck at the time that the damage occurred, although the Plaintiffs were also using the truck for personal travel. Following the total loss of the truck, the Plaintiffs initiated a claim with their insurer, The Manitoba Public Insurance Company (the Defendant). The Defendant denied this claim on the basis that the use of the dealer’s plate was noncompliant with legislation.
The applicable legislation included The Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act, C.C.S.M. c. P215 (the MPIC) and The Highway Traffic Act, C.C.S.M. C. H60, (the HTA), which both are clear that a defendant must honor claims only where the damaged vehicle is insured properly. In addition, The Drivers and Vehicles Act, C.C.S.M. c. D104 (the DVA) sets out the applicable registration requirements for active vehicles in Manitoba, which includes appropriate number plates. Most number plates in Manitoba must be linked with a specific vehicle; in contrast, a dealer’s plate can be attached to multiple vehicles.
Section 64(2) of the DVA provides that: “no person shall attach a dealer’s number plate to a vehicle other than a vehicle that is (a) kept for sale by a dealer; (b) used in the promotion of sales by a dealer […] (c) in the dealer’s custody and control to test or service it, or to move it from one place to another in connection with servicing or testing it.” If the Plaintiffs could show that one or more of these conditions were met, then the truck would have been properly insured and the Defendant would be required to honor the claim.
Regarding s.62(2)(a), the court found that the truck did not meet the definition of “kept for sale” since Mr. Ralph was not keeping the truck for sale within the scope of his position as a dealer, although the Plaintiffs did intend to sell it.
Regarding s.64(2)(b), the court found that the truck met the definition of “promotion of sales” because Mr. Ralph had driven the truck to the location where it was damaged in the course of promoting the sale of a trailer towed by the truck. The court stated that “although […] the sale being promoted was of the Trailer and not of the Truck […] s.64(2)(b) does not require that the sale being promoted is necessarily that of the vehicle to which a dealers’ number plate is affixed” [para 48].
Regarding s.64(2)(c), the court found that the truck did not meet the definition of “in the dealer’s custody and control to test or service it or to move it […] in connection with servicing or testing it”. Mr. Ralph claimed he had driven the truck to the location where it was damaged for the purpose of replacing a part which had failed safety inspection. The court found, however, that he had driven the truck to the farm for service not in his role as a dealer, but as the husband of the owner, given that he chose to drive the truck unnecessarily to a family farm approximately two hours away to perform the service rather than to a closer service location (which he would not have done for an “arms length customer”) [para 56].. He therefore had custody and control of the truck, but not in his capacity as a dealer, and not for the purposes of servicing the truck or moving it in connection with servicing it.
Given that the plaintiff met the definition of section 64(2)(b) of the DVA, the truck was properly insured to the dealer, and the court found the Plaintiffs entitled to receive payment from the Defendant in the principal amount.