Supreme Court of Canada Rules that Tree-Falling Fatality is a Motor Vehicle Accident

By Roger Foisy on July 31st, 2012

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in the city’s favour after a rotted tree which the city owned fell onto a car killing the driver Gabriel Rossy. Despite the coroner’s report that stated the victim’s death was preventable as the city failed to maintain the rotten tree – in this case by cutting it down – no negligence was found on the part of the city of Westmount, Quebec. Canada’s highest court determined that the victim’s family’s effort to seek compensation should be dealt with through Quebec’s no-fault accident insurance system and not a civil lawsuit against the city.

The Supreme Court of Canada found that this would be classified as an ‘accident’ under Quebec’s no-fault accident insurance scheme. An ‘accident’ under the Automobile Insurance Act, R.S.Q., c. A-25, is an event in which injury or damage was “caused by an automobile, by the use thereof or by the load carried in or on an automobile…” (s. 1, “damage caused by an automobile”). The ‘use’ of the vehicle was it acting as a means of transportation for Rossy when the accident occurred [para 53]. The Court also stated that “the vehicle’s role in the accident need not be an active one. The mere use or operation of the vehicle, as a vehicle, will be sufficient for the Act to apply” [para 52].

In Ontario, the term ‘accident’ under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule within the Insurance Act means “an incident in which the use or operation of an automobile directly causes an impairment or directly causes damage…”, but the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that this should be more broadly interpreted to include the ordinary and well-known uses of an automobile.

To read the full CBC News article please click here.
For the Supreme Court of Canada judgment of Westmount (City) v Rossy, 2012 SCC 30 please click here.

Roger Foisy