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Whiten’s world: The Supreme Court of Canada’s insurance law decisions since Whiten v. Pilot Insurance Company

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Introduction: In the annals of Canadian insurance law, February 22, 2002, is a red letter day. On that date, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in Whiten v. Pilot Insurance Co.,' upholding the trial jury's award of $1,000,000 in punitive damages against the insurer. The case was an unprecedented and unquestionable victory for the insured. Since Whiten, the Supreme Court of Canada has continued to be active in advancing the rights of insureds who are in conflict with their insurance companies. In fact, between February 22, 2002, and June 30, 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada issued eight insurance law rulings. This means that in the 16 months immediately following Whiten, the Supreme Court issued more insurance law rulings than in the five years preceding Whiten. Further, seven of the eight Post-Whiten Cases dealt with issues arising from coverage contests directly between insured and insurer.' In each of these seven cases the Supreme Court found in favour of the insured. This record again stands in contrast to the court's insurance law rulings in the five years preceding Whiten when the Supreme Court favoured the insured in only three out of seven cases.' My main purpose in this article is to determine what, if anything, the Post-Whiten Cases reveal about the current state of Canadian insurance law and, more specifically, about the Supreme Court's present view of the legal obligations undertaken by the parties to an insurance contract. To this end, I begin with a review of the collective outcomes of the Post-Whiten Cases followed by a precis of each case. Based on my review of the Post-Whiten Cases, I conclude that the Supreme Court is strongly committed to protecting the interests of insureds who are in conflict with their insurance companies and that the Supreme Court's objective apparently is to see Canadian insurance law reformed to clarify the respective rights of insurers and insureds.

  • Date created
    2003
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  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3P26QJ0W
  • License
    © 2003 Barbara Billingsley et al. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Billingsley, B. (2003). Whiten’s world: The Supreme Court of Canada’s insurance law decisions since Whiten v. Pilot Insurance Company. Advocates' Quarterly, 27(3), 237-258. Retrieved from http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/aqrty27&div=21&g_sent=1&collection=journals
  • Link to related item
    http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/aqrty27&div=21&g_sent=1&collection=journals