Forestex Management Corp. et al. v. Underwriters at Lloyds et al.

In Marine Insurance, Pleadings on (Updated )

“Many years ago when small boys wore suspenders and ships had gender…” So begins the Reasons for judgment of Prothonotary Hargrave in this application by the Defendants to strike out the Statement of Claim of the Plaintiff. The facts were that on 4 August 2000 the “Texada” went aground in a passage in the Queen Charlotte Islands and was subsequently declared a constructive total loss. The Plaintiff gave underwriters notice of the casualty on 8 August 2000 and underwriters denied coverage for breach of the trading warranty on 10 August 2000. The Plaintiff subsequently commenced an action against underwriters for coverage under the policy of insurance. That action was, however, dismissed following a status review on 9 January 2003. The dismissal was appealed by the Plaintiff but the appeal was not served. The Plaintiff attempted to bring on a motion ex parte to extend the time to serve the appeal but was ordered to serve the underwriters. This was not done and the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal for delay on 13 January 2004. The Plaintiff subsequently commenced the present action against underwriters alleging bad faith. The Defendant underwriters filed a Statement of Defence and brought the present motion to dismiss the action on various grounds. However, as they had filed a Statement of Defence the Prothonotary held that they were only entitled to argue that the Statement of Claim failed to disclose a reasonable cause of action. The thrust of the Defendants argument was that there could be no action for bad faith without an initial finding that there was coverage under the policy. The Prothonotary first considered the requirements of an action for bad faith. He reviewed American and Canadian authorities and noted that although a claim under a policy and a claim for bad faith are two distinct causes of action they are related in that a claim for bad faith cannot succeed unless there is a finding that there is coverage under the policy. He next considered the effect of the dismissal of the claim under the policy and held that an order dismissing an action for delay does not set up a res judicata defence and therefore, subject to any time bar defence, does not prevent a Plaintiff from re-commencing an action. The Prothonotary next considered whether there was a limitation period that would bar the Plaintiff from re-commencing an action on the policy. The Court was referred to s. 39 of the Federal Court Act which incorporates provincial limitation periods and was urged to apply the one year limitation period set out in section 22(1) of the British Columbia Insurance Act. However, the Prothonotary questioned whether the British Columbia Insurance Act extended or ought to extend to marine insurance, a federal undertaking. The Prothonotary did, however, apply the two year limitation period in the British Columbia Limitations Act and applying that period held that the action was not time barred. (The denial of coverage occurred on 10 August 2000 and the bad faith action was commenced on 9 August 2002.) Accordingly, the Prothonotary noted that the existing bad faith action could be amended by adding a supporting claim under the policy and held that if this was done it was not plain and obvious and beyond doubt that the Plaintiff’s action could not succeed. In result, the motion to strike the claim was dismissed.