Many people I find are always requesting the absolute minimum liability limit for their professional liability, business insurance, commercial auto insurance or personal home insurance and auto insurance policies. I find it a challenge to express to people that they need higher and higher levels of liability. Many businesses will increase their liability limit simply due to contract requirements such as a lease agreement. I try to use examples to demonstrate that liability limits are often not enough and to show that settlements are getting bigger and bigger in Canada and any amount over your liability limit is yours!
The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a $17-million award—the largest personal injury award in Canadian history—to a young man who was seriously injured in an automobile accident in June 2000.
Rob Marcoccia, 20, was driving straight through an intersection on the red light when he collided with an oncoming furniture truck making a left turn. Marcoccia suffered serious and permanent injuries, including profound brain damage, and will require 24-hour care for the remainder of his life.
The lower court decided that the truck driver was 61-per-cent at fault because he was making the left turn and Marcoccia was 39-per-cent to blame because he sped up instead of stopping when he saw the amber light.
The defendant’s truck was insured for relatively low limits, and the primary insurer settled for policy limits and partial indemnity costs, about $1.25 million in all. The furniture company had already agreed to pay $1 million. The remainder of the 61 per cent was to be paid by Ford Credit, the owner/lessor of the truck.
Ford Credit argued that it was “perverse” for the jury to find the driver of the truck at fault and to award so much for Marcoccia’s future care. At the time, Ontario’s “joint and several liability” doctrine made the leasing company jointly liable with the driver, so the majority of this award fell to Ford Credit. Ontario and several other provinces have since introduced a damages cap to insulate vehicle lessors from deep-pocket exposures like this.
It is likely that this case will find its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
You can read this verdict in its entirety at http://www.ontario courts.on.ca/decisions/2009/april/ 2009ONCA0317.htm.