A very recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada is important for those who run hotels, motels, or perhaps even paid storage facilities and insurance companies for those businesses.
A Quebec hotel operator owned a "park and fly" hotel where invited guests could stay over in its rooms, then leave their vehicles in its parking lot while travelling and use its shuttle service to get to the airport. In winter months those guests who left their vehicles in the hotel's parking lot were required to hand over keys to those vehicles at the front desk to enable vehicles to be moved for snow removal purposes.
During the winters of 2005 and 2006 two guests had their cars stolen from that parking lot, and their owners were compensated by their respective auto insurers. However, after paying the car owners the insurers sued the hotel owners as well as the hotel owner's insurance company to recover their payouts on the basis that the required key arrangement made the hotel owners liable for the theft of each car.
At Trial, the judge held that the hotel operator's liability insurance policy, which excluded coverage for property damage (loss of use or physical injury) to "personal property in the care, custody or control of the insured" did not apply in the case of these 2 cars, despite the fact that the keys to guests' cars were required to be left at the hotel's front desk.
Although different levels of Court in Quebec did overturn or vary the Trial Judge's decision, final appeal to the Supreme Court decided that the Trial Judge did not make any critical error reviewable on appeal, that the exclusion clause for the hotel did not apply because the vehicles had not been placed in the "custody and control" of the hotel to the degree necessary to make it liable for damages resulting from the thefts.
3091-5177 Quebec Inc. v Lombard General Insurance Co of Canada, 2018 SCC 43 (37421)(27422)
Jim is a Partner with Rowanoak Law Office LLP.
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