Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Company of Canada, 2022 ONCA 806 (CanLII)
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By: Alexandre Doucet (Articled Clerk)
Beaudin, a 29-year-old at the time of the incident, was riding his dirt bike at Gopher Dunes Park in Norfolk County, Ontario. Trying for a good time at a qualifying race, Beaudin was at the home stretch of the challenging course when he suddenly veered to the right off the track, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Prior to the crash Beaudin had purchased comprehensive motor vehicle liability insurance from Travelers Insurance Company of Canada (hereinafter “Travelers”), a requirement under the Off-Road Vehicles Act (hereinafter “ORVA”).
Beaudin applied for accident benefits under the Travelers policy. Travelers denied coverage, pointing to section 2 (1)(5) of Reg. 863 under ORVA which exempts “off-road vehicles at closed course competition or sponsored by a motorcycle association.” Further, Travelers took the position that the collision was not an “accident,” and the dirt bike was not an “automobile” under section 224(1) of the Insurance Act. The License Appeal Tribunal (hereinafter “LAT”) held in favour of Beaudin and the Divisional Court dismissed the insurer’s appeal.
Travelers then appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. On appeal, three grounds were raised but the ultimate issue came down to statutory interpretation. The Court of Appeal found that ORVA is just one part of a comprehensive scheme to protect victims of accidents or collisions by promoting universal coverage with a few exceptions, such as the accident occurring on a closed course competition. Those exemptions, the Court of Appeal concluded, did not apply in this case as the event Beaudin rode in was not sponsored by a motorcycle association and so did not fit the list of ORVA exemptions. Sponsored events are exempt under the assumption that basic safety protocols could help alleviate risks.
Consequently, the Court of Appeal dismissed Travelers’ appeal and concluded that the ORVA exemption applied only to sponsored events. Beaudin’s dirt bike was therefore an automobile at the time of the incident. The application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was recently dismissed.