Last month, Canadian Underwriter reported on Tuffnail v. Weekes, a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a 2009 motor vehicle accident involving impaired driving. The case involves multiple defendants and complex arguments surrounding liability and insurance claims. The plaintiff, Gregory Tuffnail, has applied for it to be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Tuffnail was a passenger in a single-vehicle accident following a wedding reception in southwestern Ontario in 2009. The driver was impaired at the time of the accident; a second passenger in the vehicle was killed. Tuffnail sustained serious injuries.
At a jury trial in 2017, Tuffnail was awarded $3.5 million in damages. The driver of the vehicle was found 65 per cent liable for the accident, the groom who hosted the reception was found 20 per cent liable, a bartender who wasn’t named in the lawsuit was found 11 per cent liable, and Tuffnail himself was found 3.85 per cent liable.
Why Is the Case Ongoing?
There appears to be no dispute over the apportioning of liability. However, there are serious questions about who should pay Tuffnail for his damages. The driver of the vehicle, who was chiefly responsible, had only $200,000 in insurance coverage; Tuffnail received $189,780. The groom’s estate (the groom passed away before a verdict was determined) provided $1.898 million. Combined, that leaves Tuffnail well short of his full $3.5 million payout.
Luckily, Tuffnail had purchased OPCF 44R Family Protection Coverage, an optional form of auto insurance coverage that provides relief when an at-fault party is uninsured or underinsured, through State Farm. The Ontario Superior Court ruled that State Farm owed $800,000 under the OPCF 44R, the difference between the $1 million policy limit and the impaired driver’s $200,000 policy limit.
However, that ruling was overturned at the Ontario Court of Appeal in June 2020, according to Canadian Underwriter. That decision stipulated that State Farm was able to deduct the combined total insurance limits of the impaired driver, the deceased groom, and the at-fault bartender, even though the bartender wasn’t named in the original personal injury lawsuit. In other words, State Farm was able to deduct $3.2 million from the original $3.5 million award, and as left to owe just $347,000.
Clearly Tuffnail v. Weekes is a particularly complex personal injury lawsuit. If the case proceeds to the Supreme Court, that body will decide how much Tuffnail should receive from State Farm, and how the remaining amount should be divided between the at-fault parties.
Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers
If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team has experience with all manner of motor vehicle accident claims, including complex insurance disputes involving multiple at-fault parties. Reach out today to learn how we can help.
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