Insurer may be a party to a tort claim.

On June 22, 2016, a judge of the BC Supreme Court held that a plaintiff’s insurer may be added as a party to a tort action where the tortfeasor’s insurance limits will likely be insufficient, and the plaintiff intends to seek compensation under its insurer’s “underinsured” liability coverage.

The case, MacPherson v. White, 2016 BCSC 1151, arose out of a head-on collision between two motor vehicles; one driven by the plaintiff Joseph MacPherson, the other was driven by the defendant, Dallas White. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries in the accident, and the defendant’s liability coverage limits were unlikely to completely cover the plaintiff’s claims so the plaintiff notified his motor vehicle insurer, Northbridge Insurance (“Northbridge”), that he intended to make a claim under the underinsured provisions of his policy.

After receiving notice, Northbridge applied to be added as a defendant in the plaintiff’s tort action. It sought full rights of participation regarding both liability and damages. The plaintiff opposed this application on the basis that Northbridge did not have a statutory or contractual right to be a party to the action.

Mr. Justice Pearlman ordered that Northbridge be added as a party, on the conditions that they:

1) filed and served their response in 21 days;

2) conducted any independent medical examinations by the end of the year; and

3) did not conduct a separate examination for discovery.

These orders were to ensure that there was no significant delay arising from the addition of Northbridge.