Lepage v. Bowen Island Municipality

In Salvage and Wrecks on (Updated )

Précis: The British Columbia Supreme Court refused to strike a Notice of Civil Claim, suggesting that permission from the Receiver of Wrecks to destroy a vessel might not be a defence to a claim for conversion.

Facts: The plaintiff was the owner of a sailboat which the defendant municipality considered to be a derelict. The municipality contacted the Receiver of Wrecks about the boat and was told by the Receiver that “it was free to proceed with the salvage of the sunken vessel”. The municipality had the vessel destroyed. The self-represented plaintiff commenced action against the municipality. The municipality filed a defence and then brought this application to strike the Notice of Civil Claim or, alternatively, for summary judgment.

Decision: Application dismissed.

Held: The defendant municipality alleges that it was authorized by the Receiver of Wrecks to take possession of and to dispose of the vessel. However, the provisions of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, S.C. 2001, c. 26 relating to wrecks do not limit or extinguish the availability of common law causes of action. The plaintiff’s pleading is sufficient to support the tort of conversion. Moreover, the evidence falls short of establishing the vessel was a wreck within the meaning of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The defendant has failed to prove there is no genuine issue for trial.