ICBC Law

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Out of Province Insurers Have No Subrogation Rights Over Part 7 Benefits Paid

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, shutting down an attempt by the Progressive Max Insurance Company from exercising subrogation rights with respect to Part 7 benefits paid.

In today’s case (Middleton v. Heerlin) the Plaintiffs were US residents involved in a motorcycle collision in BC.  They were insured with Progressive and received over $100,000 in medical/rehab and other benefits from Progressive by virtue of Progressive filing a Power of Attorney Undertaking promising to provide their insured with minimum coverage required under BC law for BC crashes.

In the Plaintiffs lawsuit against the alleged at fault motorist Progressive sought to get their money back arguing they had rights of subrogation.  The Court shut this argument down noting similar arguments were dismissed by the BC Court of Appeal in 2000 and that recent statutory changes do not change this result.  In dismissing Progressive’s argument Mr. Justice Johnston noted as follows –

[11]         When Matilda was decided, the relevant portions of s. 25 of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act provided as follows:

25.       (1)        In this section and in section 26, “benefits” means a payment that is or may be made in respect of bodily injury or death under a plan established under this Act, other than a payment pursuant to a contract of third party liability insurance or an obligation under a plan of third party liability insurance, and includes accident insurance benefits similar to those described in Part 6 of the Insurance Act that are provided under a contract or plan of automobile insurance wherever issued or in effect.

            (2)        A person who has a claim for damages and who receives or is entitled to receive benefits respecting the claim, is deemed to have released the claim to the extent of the benefits.

[12]         The court noted at para. 7:

As the chambers judge noted, in the absence of any express statutory right of subrogation the insurer’s right of subrogation is a derivative right only, which must be advanced in the name of the insured. The insurer is placed in no better position than that of the insured. The revised form of question 1 could be answered “no” simply on the ground that Progressive has no status as a subrogated insurer to advance any claim against the defendants in its own name.

The revised question, to which the above answer was given, was stated in this way at para. 2:

Does Progressive (the third party) have an enforceable right under the contract or the common-law to recover from the defendants all or part of the funds, being $17,800.00 U.S. paid by Progressive to the plaintiff?

[13]         It would seem, therefore, that unless the plaintiffs can point to an express statutory right of subrogation, the answer in these cases must be governed by the result in Matilda set out above.

[14]         In spite of the finding in para. 7, the court in Matilda went on to deal with what it said was a broader issue argued by the parties – provincial legislative competence over extra-provincial insurance contracts, which it framed in this way at para. 8:

The issue is whether the provisions of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act purport to modify the terms of extra-provincial policies and thereby exceed the reach of provincial jurisdiction. In my view, they do not. The focus of s. 25(1) and (2) is on the tort action by Progressive’s insureds against ICBC’s insureds. The torts are the motor vehicle accidents that occurred within British Columbia and clearly are within provincial jurisdiction. The subsections simply provide that accident benefits cannot be claimed in the B.C. tort actions irrespective of where the policy paying the benefits was made. That does not purport to modify the terms of the extra-provincial policies. It merely limits the damages recoverable in tort whether by the insured beneficially or Progressive as subrogated claiming in the name of its insureds. In my opinion, the subsections address an incident of provincial jurisdiction over torts within the province and do not attempt to legislate terms of extra-provincial contracts. [Underlining added.]

[15]         Although there is no argument in these applications that the current version of the statute purports to modify extra-provincial contracts, the underlined portions above would appear to offer no comfort to Progressive, as there is no material difference in wording between the section before the court in Matilda and s. 83(1) and (2) invoked by the defendants in these cases…

[21]         I conclude that Matilda governs the interpretation of s. 83, is not affected by the change in wording from s. 26 to s. 84, and is a full answer to these applications.

[22]         Both applications are dismissed with costs to the defendants.

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