Tag: GG v. ICBC

ICBC UMP Arbitrations and Liability Findings


Useful reasons were recently released by Arbitrator Yule discussing the scope of an arbitrator’s power to address issues of liability in the course of an UMP Claim.
In the recent case (GG v. ICBC) the Claimant was injured by an underinsured Washington State motorist.  He sued for damages and ultimately settled for policy limits with the at fault motorists insurer.  The Claimant applied to ICBC to have excess damages paid under his underinsured motorist protection (UMP) policy.  The Claim was ultimately dismissed finding the Claimant did not have standing to trigger the UMP process.
The decision went on to discuss the ability of an arbitrator to Rule on liability issues when they have not been previously disposed of by a trial on the merits.  Arbitrator Yule provided the following reasons:
71.  As I have noted previously, the scheme of UMP compensation in British Columbia, in the absence of agreement between ICBC and a claimant, is premised upon an underlying tort judgement.  Sections 148.2(1) and (6) cannot mean that either party can arbitrarily and unilaterally have any issue relating to legal entitlement to recover damages determined in an arbitration because in those instances where there is a judgement int he underlying tort action, legal entitlement to recover damages will have been judicially decided.  Section 148.2(6) must at least be intended to give an arbitrator authority to determine issues of legal entitlement including contributory negligence where there is an agreement by the parties that the issue should be determined in the arbitration.  Absent the presence of collusion or fraud in obtaining judgement in a foreign jurisdiction, I think that the scheme of UMP compensation presumes that for accidents in foreign jurisdictions, issues of legal liability including contributory negligence are conclusively determined in a judgement of the foreign court.  I do not think that Section 148.2(6) entitles either a claimant or ICBC to “relitigate” an issue of liability or contributory negligence where there has been a judicial determination om the merits of the issue in a tort action in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred….I do not think a claimant who has succeeded in obtaining a judgement after trial in a foreign jurisdiction where such potential defences were not alleged, is exposed to have such defences raised for the first time in a subsequent UMP arbitration.  If the claimant here is entitled to pursue his UMP claim, notwithstanding the entered Consent Dismissal Order in the Washington action, it seems to me that the actual Order cannot be regarded as determinative of anything and is virtually irrelevant.  In that circumstance, I think Section 148.2(6) permits ICBC to raise the issue of contributory negligence, although whether the issue could be heard on its merits would be subject to full argument on the issue of whether, under Washington Law which is determinative as to issues of liability, formal admissions of fault in the pleadings constitute a conclusive determination of liability.

Only Two Ways to Get to UMP

An important arbitration decision was released last year demonstrating that there are only two ways to get standing at an UMP arbitration proceeding; either with the consent of ICBC or by having an unsatisfied judgement against the tort feasor.  The case also addresses the effects of a tort release in subsequent UMP proceedings and lastly the consent requirement under s. 148.2(4)(b) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation finding that ICBC needs to demonstrate real prejudice to rely on this section.
In last year’s case (GG v. ICBC) the Claimant was injured in a Washington State motor vehicle collision.  The at fault motorist had very low third party liability coverage and likely was underinsured for the circumstances.  The Claimant had Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP) with ICBC.
The Claimant sued in Washington State and the at fault motorist admitted liability.   Since the Washington State court award would not be binding on ICBC regarding the value of the claim the Claimant sought ICBC’s permission to settle for policy limits and proceed to UMP arbitration to determine the value over and above this amount that would be payable.  ICBC would not consent to this.  The Claimant settled his claim and started an UMP proceeding.  ICBC challenged this arguing the Claimant did not have standing to do so.  Arbitrator Yule agreed finding there are only two ways to get standing in an UMP Claim. In dismissing the claim Arbitrator Yule provided the following reasons:
37.  The essence of the dispute between the parties regarding the entitlement issue is whether there is a “third way” for a Claimant to establish the right to proceed to arbitration.  ICBC says there are only two ways to establish that right, namely (1) an unsatisfied judgement against the tortfeasor or (2) the consent of ICBC.  The Claimant says there is a third way, namely, by admissions of the tortfeasor, both as to fault for the accident (legal liability and legal entitlement) and as to an inability to satisfy any damages that may be awarded…The Claimant asserts that in this case compelling him to obtain judgement in the Washington State action is unfair, particularly having in mind the uselessness of an assessment of damages under Washington State law.  I agree.  However, in light of the legal authorities, I am constrained to conclude that the Claimant is not entitled to UMP compensation because he has not established the necessary prerequisites.
This finding was fatal in and of itself to the Claim, however, Arbitrator Yule also addressed the effects of a full and final release as against the tort-feasor.  When the Claimant settled with the at fault driver the typical release was signed.  Arbitrator Yule found that signing this release absent ICBC’s consent compromised the Claimant’s rights to an UMP Claim and provided the following reasons:
61.  Accordingly, I am constrained to find that in the absence of the agreement of ICBC that the claimant may do so and still proceed to an arbitration of his UMP Claim, the entry of a Consent Dismissal Order in the Washington action and the provision of a Full and Final Release of SK mean that the claimant is no longer legally entitled to recover damages from SK and there is no “excess” damages that could be the subject of an UMP Claim.  Hence, the claimant is not entitled to advance an UMP claim now.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

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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