Why You Shouldn't "Steal" and Burn Your Own Car

It should go without saying that stealing and burning your own vehicle with a view to making an insurance claim is not a good idea.
Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with a vehicle theft/fire claim.  In last week’s case (Singh v. ICBC ) the Plaintiff purchased a 2007 E-350 Mercedes.  On October 24, 2009 the vehicle was found some 15 minutes from the Plaintiff’s home and “had just been ignited with fire” with flames “shooting ten to twenty feet in the air.”  The luxury vehicle was rendered a total loss.
The Plaintiff made a claim to ICBC to recover damages for loss of the vehicle but they were suspicious of the circumstances and denied the claim.  The Plaintiff sued for damages seeking over $94,000 in replacement cost coverage.
In denying the claim the Court found that the Plaintiff “made a key set available to someone so the Mercedes could be driven to the scene of the fire” and further that the Plaintiff conspired in the destruction of the vehicle with Madam Justice Hyslop finding that “he knew in advance what would happen to the Mercedes“.
In dismissing the claim the Court provided the following reasons:
[122]     Constable Gibo stated that Mr. Singh was not surprised or did not express shock that the Mercedes was on fire, nor did he ask for any details as to the event. He did not care. I find that is because he knew in advance what would happen to the Mercedes.
[123]     I do not accept that the Mercedes was stolen. Mr. Singh’s evidence was that when he purchased the Mercedes he received two sets of keys to operate it. He claims that he mislaid one set of keys, but was very clear that the keys were not lost or stolen. He refused to say when one set of keys was mislaid.
[124]     Expert evidence is before the court that categorically states that Mr. Singh’s Mercedes could not be driven without the keys. The opinion of Mr. Seroogy is that in order to produce a new key, it requires the proper equipment and people with extensive training and experience “in multiple electronic disciplines”. Mr. Seroogy said that the process is delicate and time consuming and could not have been performed within the timeframe between when the Mercedes was last seen and the time when it was found burning. I accept this evidence.
[125]     Mr. Crowe found that there was damage to the right side of the Mercedes. I find that this was intended to cover up the fact that the Mercedes was driven to the site of the fire with a key.
[126]     I find that the Mercedes was driven to the scene of the fire using the keys. The Mercedes was then set on fire.
[127]     The fact that it is unknown who participated in the theft and the destruction of the Mercedes by fire, is of no consequence.
[128]     In his testimony, Mr. Singh completely resiles from his pleadings in which he alleges theft. Mr. Singh repeatedly testified that he was not claiming the Mercedes was stolen, but rather that it was burned. Nothing in his pleadings mentions that the Mercedes was burned.
[129]     In his Claim File Report (by telephone), Mr. Singh claimed that the Mercedes was stolen. No mention was made of it being burned. In his statement of November 4, 2009, he refers to the fire. In his Proof of Loss, he swears that the cause of his loss was by “burned”. However, whether it was stolen or not, it could not be at the location of the fire without being driven there with the use of one of the sets of keys issued to Mr. Singh when he purchased the Mercedes.
In addition to dismissing the claim the Court ordered that the Plaintiff pay the Defendant’s costs which I would ballpark at $20,000 – $30,000.  So, the end result is no vehicle, no insurance payout and a significant debt to ICBC.

bc injury law, icbc vehicle theft, Madam Justice Hyslop, Singh 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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