Ocean Fisheries Ltd. v. Pacific Coast Mutual Marine Insurance Company

In Arbitration/Jurisdiction Clauses in Maritime Law on (Updated )

This was an appeal from an order of Mr. Justice Teitelbaum of the Trial Division. A motion for a stay was initially brought before the Prothonotary who ordered a stay on the basis of an arbitration provision contained in the by-laws of the Defendant, a mutual insurance company, and incorporated by reference into the terms of an insurance policy. The Plaintiff argued that the arbitration provisions should be read contra proferentem against the Defendant and, that when so read they did not apply. The Prothonotary held that there was no ambiguity in the provisions and that they did apply. Further, the Prothonotary disagreed that the doctrine of contra proferentem should apply to an insurance policy issued by a mutual insurance company such as the Defendant. On appeal, Mr. Justice Teitelbaum held that the Prothonotary erred in failing to read the insurance policy contra proferentem. Further, he held that when the policy was so read the arbitration provision applied only if the Defendant had made an offer of settlement. As the Defendant had not made an offer of settlement, the Plaintiff was not obliged to arbitrate. On further appeal to the Court of Appeal the Court affirmed the result of Mr. Justice Teitelbaum. The Court held that a contract of insurance was to be interpreted like any other cont ract,i.e.. to discover and give effect to the intention of the parties as disclosed by the words used, the context and the purpose. The Court held that when and the bylaws of the Defendant were so interpreted the dispute did not come within the arbitration clause.