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Joint TortFeasor Payments Fully Deductible From Lessor's Vicarious Liability Obligations

BC’s Motor Vehicle Act and Insurance (Vehicle) Act limit the vicarious liability of vehicle lessor’s to $1 million.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Court of Appeal clarifying this obligation when a personal injury claim is worth over $1 million and other responsible tort feasors have paid the first $1 million in damages.  In short, the BC Court of Appeal held that once payments from other tortfeasor’s are made up to $1 million lessor liability is fully extinguished.
In this week’s case (Stroszyn v. Mistui Sumitomo Insurance Company Limited) the Plaintiff was involved in a serious motor vehicle collision and settled his injury claim for $1.6 million.  ICBC, who insured the responsible driver, paid the first $1 million being the full extent of the Third Party insurance available.  The Plaintiff sought to collect the balance from the lessor, Honda Finance Inc., who was the registered owner of the Defendant’s vehicle and vicariously liable for the tort.
The BC Court of Appeal held that ICBC’s payment fully satisfied any exposure Honda had.  In reaching this conclusion and clarifying the protections given to vehicel lessor’s in BC the Court provided the following reasons:

[24]         I see no basis in law for considering only a portion of the ICBC payment to have been made on behalf of Honda. In my view, each of the insureds in this case can regard the whole of the payment made by ICBC to have been made on his, her or its behalf and to have reduced its liability to the petitioner to the full extent of the payment. In the absence of a statutory provision limiting the lessor’s liability, all three would remain jointly and severally liable for the balance of the petitioner’s damages. However, the I(V)A having limited the lessor’s liability to $1 million, it is my view that the payment of $1 million to the petitioner on behalf of all insureds, including the lessor, completely discharges the lessor’s liability and leaves the other defendants jointly and severally liable for the balance of the damages.

[25]         This must certainly be the case where the liability of Ms. Chen and Honda is entirely vicarious. Vicarious liability is discharged to the extent of any payment made in satisfaction of a plaintiff’s claim for damages. This is not a case where liability can be apportioned by degrees of blameworthiness, or severed.

Joint and Several Liability, Section 82 Insurance (Vehicle) Act, Section 82.1 Insurance (Vehicle) Act, section 86 BC Motor VEhicle Act, Stroszyn v. Mistui Sumitomo Insurance Company Limited, vicarious liability