Mussio Goodman Wins BC Court of Appeal Against ICBC

Posted on by Mussio Goodman

Mussio Goodman Wins BC Court of Appeal Against ICBC for Trying to Deny Injury Compensation

We are pleased to announce that the British Columbia Court of Appeal has ruled that ICBC must compensate for the injuries sustained by our client during a bus ride back from their zip line ride.

As reported by The Vancouver Sun, counsel for our client, Wes Mussio and Eric Goodman, were successful in convincing the Court of Appeal to reverse a decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissing our client’s case against Ziptrek.

On the day of the accident, our client was returning from a zipline tour in a bus provided by Ziptrek and being driven by a Ziptrek employee. The bus veered off the road, flipped, and fell off a cliff. Our client sustained serious injuries as a result of this accident, including a broken neck. Ziptrek refused to take responsibility for their negligence, citing the release signed by our client.

But since this accident happened in a motor vehicle, and British Columbia’s Insurance (Vehicle) Act imposes a universal compulsory insurance regime relating to motor vehicle accidents, ICBC was also brought into the mix. Despite voluntarily signing Ziptrek’s release, could our client still sue Ziptrek and and receive compensation from ICBC under the Insurance (Vehicle) Act?

Mr. Mussio and Mr. Goodman said “yes”, arguing that our client only contemplated signing away her rights relating to injuries occurring on or around the zipline itself and that denying our client her rights under the Insurance (Vehicle) Act was contrary to public policy.

ICBC said “no”, even though they admitted that the accident occurred as a result of the Ziptrek bus driver’s negligence. They argued that our client had completely relinquished her rights to sue by signing Ziptrek`s release.

The British Columbia Supreme Court sided with Ziptrek and ICBC, which opened the door to various types of “mischief” flowing from the ability of private parties to contract out of their rights under the statutory insurance scheme. For instance, bus companies and taxi companies might theoretically be permitted to force customers to sign away their rights as a condition of using their services and thereby avoid liability for their negligence.

The concept of a universal compulsory car insurance regime would therefore be fundamentally undermined, since allowing people to opt out of the regime would render it neither universal nor compulsory.

However, the Court of Appeal reversed this decision, agreeing with Mr. Mussio and Mr. Goodman that it was against public policy to allow people to contract out of the universal and compulsory insurance scheme imposed under the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. As noted by Madam Justice Garson, writing for the majority of the Court of Appeal:

In my view, the ICBC regime is intended as a benefit for the public interest just as is human rights legislation. It would be contrary to the public interest and to a harmonious contextual interpretation of the legislation to allow private parties to contract out of this regime. As such, to the extent that the Release purports to release liability for motor vehicle accidents it is contrary to public policy and is unenforceable.

The Court of Appeal held that Ziptrek and ICBC are liable for our client’s injuries in the bus crash. A trial before the Supreme Court of British Columbia will be scheduled to determine how much those injuries are worth.

There is no word yet as to whether Ziptrek and ICBC intend to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.