Verreault Navigation Inc. v. The Continental Casualty Company

In Marine Insurance on (Updated )

Précis: The Quebec Superior Court held that a claim against underwriters for indemnity under ship repairer liability policies was governed by Canadian maritime law and not the civil law of Quebec and where the court further held that the underwriters were not liable based on a “faulty design” exclusion in the policy and a notice/reporting provision.

Facts: The plaintiff ship repairer sued its primary liability underwriter (Continental) and its excess liability underwriter (Lombard Insurance Company of Canada) to recover costs incurred to correct certain deficiencies in the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system of a passenger ferry it had repaired for the Government of Canada. The actual defective work had been done by a subcontractor of the plaintiff. The underwriters denied liability on two grounds: first, that the policies contained a "faulty design" exception which applied in the circumstances; and, second, that both policies excluded losses not discovered and reported within one year of delivery of the vessel to the customer.

Decision: Action dismissed.

Held: The claim is subject to uniform Canadian maritime law and not Quebec civil law. The "faulty design" exception of the two policies applies since the HVAC equipment installed on the ferry was inadequate and defective. At the time of its installation, the equipment did not comply with applicable state-of-the-art standards for such systems on passenger vessels operating in Canada. In addition, the notice of loss was given more than 12 months after the redelivery the ferry to the Government, contrary to the requirements of both policies. This was a violation of the assured’s obligation of utmost good faith under s. 20 of the Marine Insurance Act.