Court of Appeal of Quebec

Vaillancourt c. Blackburn

June 04, 2018


Rochette, Dufresne, Rancourt

Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing a motion to dismiss an action for damages. Allowed.

In March 2014, the respondent was clearing snow from his vehicle when he fell after slipping on the ice covering the parking lot of the building belonging to the appellant. He filed an application for compensation with the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ). The SAAQ dismissed his claim on the grounds that the action of clearing snow is in connection with the maintenance of the automobile, which is included in the exceptions under the Automobile Insurance Act (CQLR, c. A-25). The respondent therefore filed an action for damages against the appellant. The trial judge dismissed the motion to dismiss this action.

In accordance with the broad and liberal interpretation of the Automobile Insurance Act, the case law has established that damage caused by the use of an automobile does not require that the person be on board that automobile or sitting behind the steering wheel. It is also not necessary for the automobile to have been in movement, either under its own power or as the result of human activity, at the moment the damage occurred. The action of clearing snow performed by the respondent in this case is intimately related to the use of his automobile. When the automobile is covered in snow, its use depends on that snow being cleared. This accident is therefore covered by the Act.

However, an action performed in connection with the maintenance of an automobile, which is excluded from the definition of “damage caused by an automobile” in s. 1 of the Automobile Insurance Act, must be interpreted narrowly because it is an exception. According to its dictionary definition, “maintenance” expresses the notion of looking after or keeping the motor vehicle in good condition. To this end, the notion of maintenance generally involves periodic actions of a lasting nature that vary depending on the mileage on the automobile or how long it has been in use. Thus, the respondent’s action of clearing snow from his vehicle is not in connection with its maintenance but with the immediate use he intended to make of it and is not covered by the “damage caused by an automobile” exception in s. 1 of the Automobile Insurance Act. Because this accident is covered by the Act, the damage to the respondent should be compensated by the SAAQ.

*Summary by SOQUIJ
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