Limited Application Provided to ICBC's "Attached Equipment" Exclusion

While ICBC does provide coverage for most tort claims following BC motor vehicle accidents there are certain exclusions to their coverage.  Last week the BC Court of Appeal released useful reasons for judgement addressing the scope of ICBC’s “Attached Equipment” exclusion.
In last week’s case (Wormell v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2003 incident when he was helping a friend transport some goods.  Their vehicle stopped at a weigh scale.  The Plaintiff stood on top of the cargo.  At the same time, the Defendant was operating a crane attached to the vehicle intending to lift the cargo.  The cargo shifted while the Plaintiff was still standing on it and in the “agony of the moment” the Plaintiff jumped off the truck to the ground which was some 12 feet below.  In jumping on the ground the Plaintiff suffered various injuries including a “crush fracture to the left ankle and a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee“.
The Plaintiff sued for damages and following trial the Defendant was ordered to pay just over $570,000 in damages.  The Defendant was insured by ICBC.  The Plaintiff applied, pursuant to section 76(2) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act for ICBC to pay the judgement.  ICBC refused to pay arguing that this claim fell outside of the scope of coverage because of section 72(2) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation which states that:
The corporation shall not indemnify an insured for liability imposed by law for injury, death, loss or damage arising, directly or indirectly, out of the operation of attached equipment at a site where the attached equipment is being operated…
The Plaintiff sued ICBC and succeeded.  ICBC appealed arguing that the claim fell within this exclusion.  The BC Court of Appeal disagreed and dismissed ICBC’s appeal.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons limiting the scope of ICBC’s ‘attached equipment’ exclusion:

[21] To repeat, the language of this exclusion is as follows:

(2)        The corporation shall not indemnify an insured for liability imposed by law for injury, death, loss or damage arising directly or indirectly, out of the operation of attached equipment at a site where the attached equipment is being operated, unless the attached equipment …

[22] ICBC’s position is that anywhere the crane is being used to load or unload cargo from the truck, or to move other loads, is “a site where the attached equipment is being operated”.

[23] This proposition is at odds with the presumption against tautology.  All words in a provision are to be taken to have meaning.  To interpret this clause as ICBC would, that whenever the crane is being operated it is at a site, effectively strikes out or renders superfluous the words “at a site where the attached equipment is being operated”.

[24] A plain reading of s. 72(2) leads to the conclusion that some losses from the operation of the attached equipment would be covered by ICBC.  Otherwise, the clause “at a site where the attached equipment is being operated” is meaningless.  The appellant argues in effect “everywhere” and “every time” the crane is operated it is at a site.

[25] If that were the case, then s. 72(2) would simply have read as follows:

(2)        The corporation shall not indemnify an insured for liability imposed by law for injury, death, loss or damage arising, directly or indirectly, out of the operation of attached equipment …

[26] To give meaning to the words “at a site where the attached equipment is being operated” requires that “site” refer to something more, such as work sites or the site of the owner’s business operations.  The appellant has not raised an alternative meaning or function that would not render the words “at a site” meaningless or superfluous.

[27] In accordance with the principles of interpretation for statutes and insurance policies, the clause means that the automobile insurance policy covers accidents caused by the attached equipment unless it was being used for business operations at a work site.  That was no doubt the intent of the drafters, namely to exclude losses arising from business operations.

[28] On the appellant’s interpretation the only time the vehicle would not be at a site, and the exclusion would not apply, would be when the truck and crane were in transit from place to place.

[29] Such an interpretation is not consistent with the reasonable expectations of the parties and if it had been intended, could have been achieved by much simpler and concise language directed to that end.

[30] I agree with the learned trial judge that the plain meaning of the words used in s. 72 is that the words “at a site where the attached equipment is being operated” mean, a site such as a construction site, a building site, or some other “work site”.

bc injury law, presumption against tautology, section 72 insurance vehicle regulation, section 72(2) insurance vehicle regulation, Section 76 Insurance Vehicle Act, section 76(2) Insurance Vehicle Act, statutory interpretation, wormell v. hagen, Wormell v. ICBC

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Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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