The Court of Appeal for Ontario has released a decision dealing with whether Ontario has jurisdiction over a case stemming from a motor vehicle accident in Alberta.
In Tamminga v. Tamminga, an Ontario resident was injured when she fell off a truck in Alberta. She commenced an action in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the owner and operator of the truck, who lives in Alberta, and a corporate co-owner of the truck, which is registered and carries on business in Alberta. She also sued her Ontario automobile insurer, claiming uninsured/underinsured coverage under her policy. The defendants moved to stay her action on the basis that Ontario courts lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. They relied upon the Supreme Court’s decision in Club Resorts Ltd. v. Van Breda.
In Van Breda, the Supreme Court identified a non-exhaustive list of “presumptive connecting factors” to consider in tort cases. One of those factors is that “a contract connected with the dispute was made in the province.” The plaintiff claimed that her Ontario auto insurance contact was was a sufficient “presumptive connecting factor” under Van Breda to give an Ontario court jurisdiction over the non-resident defendants.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the motions judge that, pursuant to Van Breda, the Ontario court did not have jurisdiction over the matter. With respect to the contract in question (the insurance policy), the Court held:
An automobile insurance contract “anticipates” accidents generally, but the tortfeasor will not be identifiable in advance. Unlike the contract in Van Breda, there is nothing that connects the appellant’s insurance contract to the respondents. They are not parties to or beneficiaries of the contract. The appellant was not visiting the farm in Alberta for any reason related to the contract. The connection between the insurance policy and the dispute only arises in the aftermath of the tort and its application is conditional on the outcome of the appellant’s claim against the tortfeasors.
In a word, there is no nexus between the insurance contract and the respondents.