Royal & Sun Alliance v. The “Renegade III”

In Admiralty Practice, Stays of Proceedings on (Updated )

This was an application for a stay of proceedings. The applicant was the owner of the Defendant yacht which had been damaged during the 2000 Victoria-Maui race. The applicant made a claim under his insurance policy for approximately $122,000 which was paid except for the sum of approximately $12,000. Subsequent to the payment the underwriters learned of circumstances which might void the policy and advised the applicant of this. On the same day the applicant commenced proceedings in the British Columbia Supreme Court for payment of the $12,000 he alleged was owing under the policy. Underwriters later did purport to void the policy for material non-disclosure and commenced in rem and in personam proceedings in the Federal Court claiming the return of the moneys paid. The applicant then brought this motion to stay the Federal Court proceedings. The application for a stay was denied. The Prothonotary noted that the Court would grant a stay only in the clearest of cases. The onus was on the applicant to prove (1) the continuation of the action would cause prejudice or injustice, not merely inconvenience or additional expense and (2) the stay would not be unjust to the Plaintiff. The Prothonotary held that although the British Columbia Supreme Court was a convenient forum it was not clearly the more appropriate forum. The Prothonotary noted that if underwriters were forced to bring their claim in the British Columbia Supreme Court they could not bring an in rem action by way of counterclaim and would have to start new proceedings and arrest the vessel for a second time. Further, the Prothonotary noted, without deciding, that there might be an issue as to whether the British Columbia Supreme Court had in rem jurisdiction. The Prothonotary concluded that there was no real prejudice or injustice to the applicant and that to allow the stay would deprive the underwriter of a legitimate juridical advantage. It is noteworthy that during the course of his reasons the Prothonotary considered whether a claim by the assured against his broker could be properly brought in the Federal Court. The Prothonotary seemed to suggest that Canadian maritime law had developed to the point where claims against brokers in a marine insurance context might be within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court.