Vehicle Lessor Liability Limit Over and Above That of Motorist
UPDATE – November 7, 2014 – the below decision was overturned in reasons released this week by the BC Court of Appeal
Important reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the limit of exposure for vehicle lessor’s when their vehicles are involved in an at-fault collision.
Provisions of the BC Motor Vehicle Act and Insurance (Vehicle) Act expose lessor’s to $1,000,000 of liability when their vehicles are involved in a collision. The BC Supreme Court was asked to interpret these provisions in the case of a $1.6 million dollar claim.
In this week’s case (Stroszyn v. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company Limited) the Plaintiff sued an at fault motorist and the vehicle lessor for damages following a collision. The quantum was agreed to at $1.6 million dollars. The ICBC insured defendant paid out the policy limits of $1 million. The vehicle lessor argued that they did not need to pay the balance as they were shielded by section 82.1 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act from any payment after a Plaintiff collects $1 million. Mr. Justice Bowden disagreed finding a lessor’s exposure, while capped at $1 million, is over and above damages collected from other liable parties. In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
 As a lessor, under s. 86(1.2), Honda Canada is vicariously liable as a joint tortfeasor. Without the limitation in s. 82.1, it would be liable, together with the lessee, for all or part of the damages of $1,600,000. However, section s. 82.1 places a $1,000,000 limit on that liability such that Honda Canada’s portion cannot be greater than $1,000,000.
 In my view, the payment of $1,000,000 on behalf of the lessee does not reduce the liability of Honda Canada to zero. It is simply a payment by one joint tortfeasor towards the total liability of the jointly liable parties. By virtue of s. 86(1.2) of the MVA, both the driver, Mr. Chen, and Honda Canada are jointly liable for the damages of $1,600,000. Pursuant to s. 82.1, Honda Canada’s portion of that liability cannot exceed $1,000,000. Of the total liability, $1,000,000 has been discharged by ICBC on behalf of the lessee, but Honda Canada remains liable as a joint tortfeasor, for $600,000.
 This result is consistent with the plain meaning of s. 82.1 of the I(V)A which limits the liability of Honda Canada to $1,000,000. Its portion of the joint liability will not exceed $1,000,000. In my view, the combined effect of s. 86(1.2) of the MVA and s. 82.1 of the I(V)A is to expose a lessor, like Honda Canada, to liability as a jointfeasor, of $1,000,000, but no more. Thus, in this case, if the driver/lessee had no insurance coverage, the lessor would be liable for the amount of $1,000,000. On the other hand, if the insurance coverage of the driver/lessee resulted in a payment of $1,600,000, then no amount would be payable by the lessor, Honda Canada.