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Porter v Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, 2021 ONSC 3107: Does falling while walking to a vehicle count?

Porter v Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, 2021 ONSC 3107: Does falling while walking to a vehicle count?

In the recent Ontario Divisional Court decision, Porter v Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, 2021 ONSC 3107, Ms. Porter called a Lyft car to her home on a snowy winter day in January. When the Lyft car arrived, it parked halfway up her icy and snowy driveway. While walking down the driveway to get to the car, Ms. Porter put out her hand to touch the roof of the car to stabilize herself on the ice. Before she was able to open the car door, Ms. Porter slipped and fell on the ice, breaking her leg. Ms. Porter made a claim to Aviva Insurance Company of Canada (“Aviva”), the insurer of the Lyft car, for statutory benefits under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, O. Reg 34/10 (“SABS”). Aviva denied her claim on the basis that the incident was not an “accident” as defined in section 3(1) of the SABS.

Section 3(1) of the SABS defines an “accident” as “an incident in which the use or operation of an automobile directly causes an impairment or directly causes damage”.

At the License Appeal Tribunal (“LAT”), it was determined that Ms. Porter’s impairments were the direct result of an accident within the meaning of section 3(1) of the SABS. Aviva appealed this decision to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice – Divisional Court.

On appeal, Justice Ryan Bell concluded that the use or operation of the Lyft car could not be said to be a direct cause of Ms. Porter’s injuries. Justice Bell held that, though the location of the car in the driveway may have led to Ms. Porter’s injuries, the use and operation of the car did not directly cause her injuries. Justice Bell noted that, while it may be that, but for where the Lyft car parked in the driveway, Ms. Porter would not have slipped on the ice and fallen, this was insufficient to establish direct causation.

The takeaway of this decision is that, in order to prove causation, more is required than establishing that a vehicle brought a plaintiff to the location of the incident or that the vehicle was the reason why the plaintiff was at the location where the incident occurred.

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