Supreme Court of Canada declines to hear insurance company appeal on dirt bike pay-out after two Ontario courts ordered insurer to pay
In 2006, Chris Perneroski from Fenelon Falls, Ontario, was involved in a terrible accident while riding his dirt bike during a vacation in Georgia, USA. Chris suffered a catastrophic brain injury in the accident, he was 21 years old at the time. His injuries were so severe that his doctors were not sure he would survive.
Chris survived, but his brain never recovered from the extensive damage. For the past fourteen years Chris has required full-time care, that is lovingly provided by his parents and sister.
Even though his mother Wendy has no training in health care services, she does what she can to help with Chris’s rehabilitation and daily attendant care needs. Chris’s father Jack does all the heavy lifting (literally) by carrying Chris to the bathroom because their bathroom is not wheelchair accessible, and to other parts of the house that are inaccessible.
Chris’s family have struggled to provide round-the-clock personal care because Mississauga based Echelon Insurance refused to pay Chris’s claim for accident benefits for the past fourteen years. This means that for fourteen years Chris has been unable to access the specialized care that he needs, leaving him solely dependent on his family.
Despite being stated in the insurance policy that coverage would follow him out of country, Echelon refused to pay the claim based on a technicality that the state of Georgia does not require insurance for dirt bike operators. If Chris’s accident occurred in Ontario, under identical circumstances, then his dirt bike accident would be covered, and Echelon would have to pay the benefits.
Echelon continued to refuse to pay the accident benefits even after being ordered to do so by Madame Justice Annette Casullo in a ruling made in Barrie in January 2019. That should have been the end of the ordeal for Chris and his family, however, Echelon went on to appeal the ruling at the Ontario Court of Appeal in May 2019 and lost. Echelon then went on to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal.
On Thursday April 9, 2020 the Supreme Court refused to hear the case and upheld the previous court decisions. This ruling means that Echelon must pay Chris’s claim and make $2 million in benefits available to him for his medical and rehabilitation needs. Given that Chris cannot walk, cannot talk, cannot feed himself, and is confined to a wheelchair – these benefits will go a long way to help Chris obtain the professional care that he desperately requires.
The entire ordeal has been an epic David and Goliath struggle from the beginning. By refusing to hear Echelon’s appeal the Supreme Court has ended the nightmare for Chris and his family.
Although Chris can’t speak, his mother Wendy will tell you that they never lost hope, she will tell you that Chris never lost hope. Chris’s strength has been his family’s strength. They now know he will receive the help he deserves, and the wait is almost over.
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