Court dismisses ICBC fraud claim

In reasons for judgment released last week, the court in Insurance Corporation of British Columbia v. Mehat, 2017 BCSC 1476, dismissed an action brought by ICBC alleging fraud against a husband and wife who were involved in a single-vehicle accident.  ICBC's case was that the husband and wife had lied to police and ICBC about who was driving their car at the time it crashed into a house.  ICBC alleged that the husband had been driving and was drunk at the time.  The defendants maintained that the wife had been the driver.  In dismissing ICBC's case, Mr. Justice Blok said as follows:

[1]             The plaintiff insurer claims sums totalling $73,421.88, plus punitive damages, for what it describes as a “straightforward case of insurance fraud”.

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[61]         There is no direct evidence that Mr. Mehat was driving the car or, to put it another way, that Ms. Mehat was not driving the car.  The only direct evidence, that is, from any witness who was in a position to know who was driving, is that Ms. Mehat was driving the car...

62]         The issue, then, is whether the circumstantial evidence in this case is sufficient to prove that the representations of the defendants were false...

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[74]         The plaintiff relies on a number of other facts as part of its case.  I deal with these as follows:

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b)    the accident is strange and unexplained: Ms. Mehat did, in fact, provide an explanation to the police, saying to Cst. Johannson that she “got dizzy and couldn’t find the brakes”.  We know from ordinary human experience that many accidents are strange, but it does not necessarily mean that something fraudulent is going on or that the accident could only have happened because the vehicle driver was intoxicated;

c)     Mr. Mehat exhibited signs of excessive alcohol consumption, and this provided a strong incentive to avoid being found to be the driver; and Mr. Mehat was the usual driver of the van: these circumstances also provide an incentive to have another person do the driving.  For that reason I consider these to be neutral facts;

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e)    Ms. Mehat was unable to locate a witness who could corroborate her assertion that she was the driver or at the scene of the accident: I find this fact unpersuasive; and

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[75]         For all of the reasons just outlined I conclude that the plaintiff has failed to meet its burden, on a balance of probabilities, of showing Ms. Mehat was not the driver of the van when it collided with the Sharma house on June 10, 2008.  It follows that the plaintiff has failed to establish that the representations of the defendants were false.

The full decision can be found here: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/14/2017BCSC1476.htm