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Statutory Interpretation - Insurance

. Kellerman-Bernard v. Unica Insurance Company

In Kellerman-Bernard v. Unica Insurance Company (Div Court, 2023) the Divisional Court considered an interesting SABS appeal where the insured, whose son was injured in a bicycle accident, herself applied for 'catastrophic impairment' SABS coverage on the basis of emotional and psychological injuries. She was denied coverage both at the LAT appeal and a further LAT reconsideration on grounds that she was not categorically-eligible, but reversed at the Divisional Court on a statutory interpretation argument.

Here the court sets out the basics of it's statutory interpretation assessment:
[14] In Skunk v. Ketash, 2018 ONCA 450, the Court of Appeal states as follows:
[8] The principles of statutory interpretation require the court first to look to the plain meaning of the statute. If the words have a plain meaning and give rise to no ambiguity, then the court should give effect to those words.

The interpretation adopted by the LAT ignores the purpose of the SABS

[23] In Vavilov, supra at para. 117, the Supreme Court reiterates that the words of a statute are to be read “ in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament.”

[24] The courts have repeatedly recognized that the SABS are remedial and constitute consumer protection legislation and ought to be read, interpreted and applied in such a way. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in Smith v. Co-Operator’s General Insurance Co. 2002 SCC 30 (CanLII), [2002] 2 S.C.R. 129 at para. 11.

[25] In Tomec v. Economical, 2019 ONCA 882 the Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that “[the] legislature’s definition of ‘catastrophic impairment’ is intended to foster fairness for victims of motor vehicle collisions by ensuring that accident victims with the most health needs have access to expanded medical and rehabilitation benefits. That definition is meant to be remedial and inclusive, not restrictive” and that the goal of the SABS “is to reduce the economic dislocation and hardship of motor vehicle accident victims and as such, assumes an importance which is both pressing and substantial” (see para. 42).


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