At our weekly meeting, Pip Swartz discussed the recent decision in Verhoef v. Intact Insurance Company, 2021 ONSC 4310. This case concerned a motion for summary judgement dismissing an action for unidentified motorist coverage.
The plaintiff, Brandin Verhoef, brought an action against the defendant, Intact, for damages arising from a motor vehicle collision he was involved in on August 18, 2014. At the time of Mr. Verhoef’s accident, Mr. Verhoef’s mother was insured by Intact under a policy of automobile insurance endorsed with a OPCF 44R Family Protection Endorsement, which extended coverage to dependent relatives residing with her.
The issue on the motion was whether Mr. Verhoef resided with his mother at the time of the accident. Intact took the position that Mr. Verhoef did not, and moved for summary judgment to dismiss Mr. Verhoef’s action as against it on that basis.
The motion judge found that Mr. Verhoef did not reside with his mother at the time of the accident.
In reaching this decision, the judge analyzed Mr. Verhoef’s living arrangements prior to and following the accident. At the time of the accident, Mr. Verhoef was living with a friend’s mother to whom he was paying rent. Mr. Verhoef had applied for Ontario Works benefits to cover the cost of this rent, and had also listed his friend’s mother’s address as his home in a hospital form. At the time of the accident, Mr. Verhoef was 17 years old.
Prior to the accident Mr. Verhoef, visited his mother and stayed at her place several times a month. She kept a room for him. Mr. Verhoef’s visits were sporadic, and he argued with his mother and his mother’s partner.
The motion judge emphasized the following factors in his consideration of whether Mr. Verhoef resided with his mother: Intention, Stability, and Household Authority.
Prior to the accident, Mr. Verhoef had no intention of moving back in with his mother. Following the accident, he lived with his mother temporarily before moving back in with his friend’s. The judge found that Mr. Verhoef’s lack of intention to live with his mother (at the time of the accident) supported the finding that he was not residing with her.
The judge stated that the frequency of Mr. Verhoef’s visits (how many times he visited his mother per month prior to the accident) were not determinative in deciding whether he was residing with his mother. However, the judge stated that the ‘sporadic’ nature of Mr. Verhoef’s visits suggested that he was not residing with his mother. T
he judge referenced the case of Gardiner v. MacDonald Estate, which emphasized the importance of stability in determining a child’s residence. In Gardiner, the child was a university student who lived on residence during the school year and with his mom during school breaks. Although the student did not live at home for a large percentage of the year, the judge held that the student resided with his mother, and that the stability offered by this arrangement supported this conclusion.
Mr. Verhoef argued with his mother and his mother’s partner prior to the accident. At his examination for discovery, Mr. Verhoef stated that (prior to the accident) he did not want to live with his mom because he believed living with her would hamper his freedom. The judge found that Mr. Verhoef’s resistance towards accepting his mother’s household authority was consistent with the finding that he was not residing with her at the time of the accident.
Residency can be an important issue in cases involving the interpretation of coverage granting or exclusionary provisions in an insurance policy. In these types of clauses, a related issue is whether someone is part of the insured’s “household”. These disputes frequently concern coverage of adult children or children approaching adulthood, and can be particularly complex in cases involving mixed families and alternative living arrangements.
 Gardiner v. MacDonald Estate, 2015 ONSC 227