Every month, Quebec judges and regulatory agencies issue dozens of rulings that, without making headlines, set the ground rules for business in Quebec.
Here are a few of the offbeat and/or consequential rulings rendered in recent weeks.
The town of St. Nazaire will have to pay more than $600,000 in compensation after a woman was badly injured when scaffolding borrowed from the municipality collapsed in 2005.
The woman was in the process of painting her home when the scaffolding collapsed on her, fracturing her spine.
She and her husband sued the town, claiming it provided â€“ free of charge to citizens â€“ defective equipment. Their expert said some of the supporting pieces had been reworked and badly soldered.
The town, which had no policy governing the borrowing of equipment before the accident, argued the husband assembled it the wrong way.
Superior Court Judge Martin Dallaire ruled that, in making available to its citizens pieces that should have been scrapped instead of welded, the town had an obligation to warn the borrower of hidden defects.
But he conceded there was a possibility the scaffolding had been erected unevenly, contributing to the collapse, so he attributed 50 per cent responsibility to both parties, halving the claim.
That still will cost St. Nazaire more than $600,000 for the womanâ€™s lost income (past and future) and ongoing physical problems, plus $35,000 for her husbandâ€™s loss of wages and enjoyment.
Having insurance doesnâ€™t guarantee youâ€™ll be compensated if your car gets stolen, a local couple has learned.
They sued their insurance company for $18,228 in replacement costs, expenses and damages after a 2002 Honda Civic they owned disappeared from the Galeries Laval one afternoon in August 2009.
The insurance company wouldnâ€™t pay because it said theyâ€™d been untruthful in their claim, among other things failing to mention the car had been damaged in an accident a few weeks before, and Quebec Court Judge Alain Breault sided with the insurer.
Among the red flags for the insurance company had been the husbandâ€™s inability to remember the colour of a laptop computer he said heâ€™d bought for his wife at a local store the previous month and left in the car.
The insurance company could find no evidence of the sale when it contacted the store, at which point the couple claimed it had been purchased from a friend they wouldnâ€™t identify.
It also was skeptical about the husbandâ€™s claim that heâ€™d replaced the vehicleâ€™s hood himself after the accident a few weeks earlier when his 18-year-old daughter â€“ who didnâ€™t have a driverâ€™s licence â€“ took the car without their permission. He had no receipt to support that explanation.
The burden of proof in such cases is on the plaintiffs, Judge Breault said, and in this instance, they failed to back up their claims or refute the insurerâ€™s contention of bad faith.
Chalk up another win for the insurance companies in what weâ€™ll call the case of the â€œdisappearingâ€� tractor.
In 2009, a John Deere tractor was reported missing from a field by the man whoâ€™d leased it four years earlier.
The vehicle, initially valued at $175,000, was insured, with John Deere named on the policy as the lessor.
An insurance investigator dispatched to elucidate the reported theft got something unexpected: an admission from the man that he wasnâ€™t sure the tractor had been stolen, heâ€™d been â€œpoorly advisedâ€� and heâ€™d get it back himself.
That put a halt to any prospective indemnity from the insurance company. It said â€œwilful faultâ€� was behind the disappearance.
Shortly afterward, the manâ€™s agricultural business went bankrupt.
He admitted in court that heâ€™d been led to believe the insurer would pay him if the vehicle disappeared, which would have helped pay his bills.
Unable to recoup the cost of the vehicle (which was never recovered) from the bankruptcy trustee, John Deere Ltd. sued the insurer for its current value, $92,160, claiming it was, in fact, an insured party.
Superior Court Judge Louis LacoursiÃ¨re disagreed, saying the fact it was named as lessor/owner on the policy made it a beneficiary, but not the insured.
And the lesseeâ€™s false reporting of a theft nullified the coverage.
A man who tried to give his brother his share of a $203,000 co-property while insolvent had the sale overruled by the courts at the instigation of his soon-to-be-ex-wife.
The man still owed her $28,000 at the time, part of $271,010 in accumulated debts, and the real estate was his only asset.
Superior Court Judge StÃ©phane SansfaÃ§on said the manâ€™s action â€œclearly favoured his brother to the detriment of his other creditors, among them the plaintiff,â€� voided the donation and placed a lien on the property, co-owned by the manâ€™s mother and nephew.
Article source: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/montreal/Wheels+Justice+Town+liable+injury+scaffold+lent/6984347/story.html