Packed with valuable information, our publications help you stay in touch with the latest developments in the fields of law affecting you, whatever your sector of activity. Our professionals are committed to keeping you informed of breaking legal news through their analysis of recent judgments, amendments, laws, and regulations.
Insurers: Two-headed hydras
On January 30, 2023, the Court of Appeal of Quebec rendered a decision in Commission scolaire De La Jonquière c. Intact Compagnie d’assurance.1 The key issues in this case are the potential for conflicts arising from liability insurance policies and the obligation to disclose documents where insurers’ duty to defend conflicts with their duty to indemnify insureds. The facts This case is part of a class action in which all Quebec school boards—now referred to as school service centres (SSCs)—were accused of violating the right to free elementary and secondary education. As part of this class action, the SSCs brought an action in warranty against their insurers, seeking compensation for any amount they may be required to pay. The insurers acknowledged their obligation to defend the appellants in the main proceedings; however, they argued that the claim was not covered by the insurance contract. Following negotiations, the parties to the class action reached a settlement. The action in warranty against the insurers is still pending. At the examination for discovery stage of the action in warranty, the insurers asked to obtain a copy of all communications exchanged between the appellants and their counsel since the beginning of the main proceedings. The SSCs objected to this request on the basis of professional secrecy and litigation privilege. The Court therefore had to rule on the merits of the objection. The trial Drawing on the decision in Domtar2, the Superior Court dismissed the SSCs’ objection, holding that they had waived their right to assert solicitor-client privilege regarding anything relating to the reasonableness of the settlement. It appears that the Court inferred this waiver from certain allegations made and from the disclosure of certain documents as part of the action in warranty. The Court concluded that the appellants had to provide the insurers with the documents, risk analyses, letters, exchanges with the appellants and expert opinions having related to the reasonableness of the settlement since the beginning of the main proceedings. However, according to the Court of Appeal, the Court failed to provide a framework for such disclosure of information and to grant the SSCs the right to raise new objections in relation to said documents. The appeal The Court of Appeal considered the conflicts that may arise from the dual responsibility of insurers: their duty to defend insureds and their duty to indemnify them. In this regard, it described liability insurers and their role as follows:  The liability insurer is effectively a two-headed hydra: A type of two-headed creature with a single corporate identity, but where one head handles the insured’s defence and the other protects the insurer’s financial interests by ensuring that it only pays out for covered losses. Each head must base its decisions on the interest it is defending and the information available to it. The two heads must remain separate in order to give effect to the insurance contract. […] The risk of a conflict of interest is therefore very real, which is why the insurer must put measures in place to ensure that it complies with the coverage provided by the policy, while also ensuring the full and complete defence of the insured.] As for the ethical obligations of the lawyer mandated by the insurer to represent the insured, the Court stated that the lawyer becomes the insured’s counsel in all respects and owes the insured absolute loyalty. As such, the right to professional secrecy in the insured’s relationship with the lawyer can be set up against the insurer. That being said, the lawyer must report on the progress of the case to the head of the hydra handling the insured’s defence. The Court then stated that it was essential in this context that the information thus obtained be accessible only to that head, and that the insurer put in place the necessary measures to keep the two heads separate. The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge did not err in concluding that the SSCs were required to provide the evidence necessary to examine the reasonableness of the settlement reached with the insurers. However, in order to do so, an exemption mechanism could be implemented, giving the SSCs the possibility to object to the disclosure of certain information. The Court also confirmed that there was no basis for concluding that the appellants had waived solicitor-client or litigation privilege with respect to all of their exchanges with their counsel. This information must remain protected by professional secrecy and therefore cannot be disclosed to the person at the insurer’s office in charge of the compensation file. The same goes for the accounts for fees, reports, opinions and other documents sent to the person at the insurer’s office handling the defence, unless the insured waives this right. Conclusion This case highlights the conflicts that can arise from the duality of insurers’ responsibilities and the distinction between insurers’ obligation to defend insureds and their obligation to indemnify them. Although the Court ruled that evidence aimed at verifying the reasonableness of a settlement from a qualitative and quantitative standpoint should be disclosed, it concluded that certain information and documents that are strictly relevant to insureds’ defence need not be disclosed. In so doing, it reiterated insurers’ dual responsibility and the importance of keeping the two heads separate when an insurer agrees to take on an insured’s defence, but maintained its refusal to indemnify the insured. Commission scolaire De La Jonquière c. Intact Compagnie d’assurance, 2023 QCCA 124. Chubb Insurance company of Canada c. Domtar, 2017 QCCA 1004.
Clarifications regarding insurance products offered on the Internet
In early 2022, the Autorité des marchés financiers (the “AMF”) conducted specific consultations on financial products offered on the Internet. Further to these consultations, the AMF published explanations on the Regulation respecting Alternative Distribution Methods (the “RADM”) in late December 2022.1 Here are some key points that the AMF has clarified: Definitions The AMF has elaborated on the meaning of certain terms and expressions included in the RADM, thereby clarifying the obligations incumbent on firms as concerns insurance products offered on the Internet: “Providing” or “presenting” information: This implies delivering, giving or handing over information to a client without them having to take any action. A client should not have to search for the information to find it. As such, making the information accessible or referring to a policy is not enough.2 “Making visible at all times”: The information should be visible to the client at all times, regardless of the page the client is on. A representative’s contact information is the only information that must be visible on the digital transactional space at all times. Websites that are accessible to people who are blind or use a voice assistant must also have means to present this information.3 “Making a representative available”: The AMF only requires that representatives be available during regular business hours.4 “Making information readily accessible”: A client must have the option of taking cognizance of the information and be able to easily find it. The information must be accessible in one or two clicks. Including a hyperlink or an icon, for example, are ways of making information accessible.5 Under this obligation, a hyperlink may be used to redirect a client to a website or document external to the digital space.6 External documents that are accessible through hyperlinks, such as sample insurance policies, must be up to date. Summary of the complaint processing policy The AMF specifies that the summary of the complaint processing policy referred to in the RADM must be that of the firm running the transactional website, not of a third party. Thus, a property and casualty insurance brokerage cannot refer to an insurer’s policy summary.7 Identification of the firm A firm may display partner logos on its digital space only if doing so does not cause confusion. A client must know which firm runs the space and must be able to distinguish it from partners that do not offer the products or services.8 Product coverage, exclusions and limitations Further to its supervisory activities, the AMF has confirmed that product coverage appears to be well presented in digital spaces. However, exclusions and sometimes limitations are not as well presented. Given that exclusions and limitations constitute information that is necessary for a client to make an informed decision, the AMF urges firms to pay attention to these and to select them based on a proper analysis.9 Suspension of transactions The AMF has clarified how to apply the criteria under section 14 of the RADM, more specifically paragraph 3 of this section, which provides that a firm must suspend a transaction initiated through a digital space when no representative can immediately intervene with a client who asks to deal with a representative and there is a risk that the client will not be able to make an informed decision. The AMF specifies that it is up to the firm to assess and manage its risk. In order to determine whether such a risk exists, the AMF has proposed the following solutions: The firm may caution the client as follows: “Do you wish to continue the process even though no representative is available at this time?” The firm could post its representatives’ availability. If a client decides to enter into a contract through a digital space, the firm could ensure that a representative contacts them within 24 hours. A transaction does not have to be suspended immediately; it can be done at the end of the transaction, before the contract is concluded. Moreover, stopping or temporarily suspending a transaction may also be necessary if a contradiction or irregularity in the information the client provides could lead to an error.10 The digital space must be set up to detect such a contradiction automatically. The AMF considers it preferable to discontinue a transaction if contradictions are detected. It can also be temporarily suspended while the client is informed of the consequences of making false statements and the importance of knowing their entire situation, for example, and to allow them to make corrections, if necessary.11 To better understand the obligations of the RADM, we invite you to consult our bulletin Bill 141: Checklist on insurance products offered via the internet and distribution without a representative. These are only available in French at this time; Regulation respecting Alternative Distribution Methods, CQLR, c. D-9.2, r. 16.1. Autorité des marchés financiers, Explications à l’égard du règlement – Le RMAD expliqué article par article (hereinafter the “Explanations”), ss. 7, 9, 11, 12 and 12.2. The terms “explaining information” or “providing information” under section 12.1 of the RADM should be interpreted in the same manner. Explanations, s. 8. Explanations, s. 8. Explanations, ss. 8 and 10. Explanations, ss. 8 and 10. A representative’s contact information does not have to appear on external documents and websites at all times. It is important to note that under section 9 of the RADM, a document that is to be “provided” or “presented” to a client cannot be located on an external website. Explanations, s. 8. Explanations, s. 8, para. 1. Explanations, s. 9. For example, a client declaring they have no children yet selecting insurance for their children constitutes a contradiction. Explanations, s. 14.
Construction: An unwarranted contestation may be considered an abuse of procedure
In the decision in 9058-4004 Québec inc. c. 9337-9907 Québec inc.1 rendered on October 21, 2022, the court granted compensation to a subcontractor for its extrajudicial fees further to a general contractor’s unfounded contestation of its claim as part of a hypothecary action. The facts In May 2019, Portes de garage Citadelle Ltée (“Citadelle”) and general contractor 9337-9907 Québec inc. (“AllConstructions”) concluded a contract for the provision of services and materials needed to install unloading docks in a building under construction. On May 16, 2019, notice of the contract was given to the building owner, 9058-4004 Québec inc. (“Transport Pouliot”). The first two phases of Citadelle’s work were completed between June and August 2019. In late September 2019, AllConstructions allegedly vacated the worksite after a dispute with Transport Pouliot. The third phase of Citadelle’s work was completed in October 2019. On November 25, 2019, Citadelle sent a statement of account to AllConstructions and registered a legal hypothec on the building two days later. On December 23, 2019, after registering a prior notice of the exercise of a hypothecary right, AllConstructions brought a hypothecary action against Transport Pouliot in the Superior Court, claiming the sums it was owed. For its part, Citadelle brought a hypothecary action against the owner, Transport Pouliot, and instituted legal proceedings against AllConstructions in April 2020. It is important to note that during the proceedings, AllConstructions admitted that it had received payment from Transport Pouliot for the sums invoiced by Citadelle. To justify its refusal to pay its subcontractor Citadelle, AllConstructions argued summarily that the services and materials provided were inadequate and did not meet standards. Despite its weak position and the lack of compelling evidence, AllConstructions maintained its argument. Citadelle had no choice but to pursue its legal proceedings and apply to have AllConstructions’ action declared abusive in order to recover its extrajudicial fees. AllConstructions’ abuse of procedure Citadelle claimed that AllConstructions’ defence was unfounded, frivolous and intended to delay. AllConstructions only had testimonial evidence to support its allegations, and it failed to file any expert opinions or exhibits. The contract did not contain a “pay when paid” clause, and AllConstructions admitted in the proceedings that it had received payment from Transport Pouliot for the sums invoiced by Citadelle. AllConstructions claimed that it had serious arguments to make in response to the application to have its action declared abusive. It stated that the work performed by Citadelle was inadequate and that the materials and services provided were not up to standards. It maintained its position, despite the fact that it had vacated the worksite a month before Citadelle’s work was completed and, therefore, could not have verified the actual quality of the work performed. In March 2022, AllConstructions ultimately abandoned its contestation of Citadelle’s claim a few days before the trial and nearly a year and a half after the proceedings began. The judge allowed Citadelle’s application to have AllConstructions’ action declared abusive. AllConstructions’ defence was unfounded, frivolous and intended to delay. It had no solid factual or legal basis. The allegation that Citadelle failed to comply with standards in the performance of its contract is mere speculation, as AllConstructions left the worksite in September 2019. Citadelle incurred unnecessary extrajudicial fees as a result of AllConstructions’ unfounded contestation of its claim. The judge awarded Citadelle a sum of $9,000.00 as compensation for the legal fees that it had paid. What it means A general contractor that cannot justify a deduction from its subcontractor’s claims after the work is completed but does so anyway risks having its contestation declared abusive. Jurisprudence has established that abuse of procedure may consist of légèreté blâmable [blameworthy conduct]2 or témérité [recklessness] resulting from allegations that do not stand up to careful analysis or are exaggerated beyond the scope of the dispute between the parties.3 A manifestly unfounded action is a civil fault that may be subject to legal proceedings and sanctions in accordance with article 51 of the Code of Civil Procedure.4 A party that considers itself the victim of abusive proceedings may, in addition to applying to have the proceedings declared abusive, claim the reimbursement of reasonable legal fees it has paid.5 This is precisely what Citadelle did and what it obtained. AllConstructions irresponsibly managed its dispute with its subcontractor. It made arguments based only on unverified assumptions, even though the evidence set out in the application was relatively solid and complete. As a victim of abuse of procedure, Citadelle was granted a reimbursement of its legal fees in addition to the sums that it was owed by AllConstructions. Court file No. 760-22-011912-204 Royal Lepage commercial inc. c. 109650 Canada ltd., 2007 QCCA 915 El-Hachem c. Décary, 2012 QCCA 2071 2741-8854 Québec inc. c. Restaurant King Ouest, 2018 QCCA 1807 (CanLII) Only extrajudicial fees deemed reasonable are reimbursed in full. The factors considered in establishing a total reasonable amount are summarized in paragraph 32 of the case at hand and are cited from Groupe Van Houtte inc. c. Développements industriels et commerciaux de Montréal inc., 2010 QCCA 1970, and Iris Le Groupe visuel (1990) inc. c. 9105-1862 Québec inc., 2021 QCCA 1208
Sales without legal warranty at the buyers’ risk: Clarity is key
On July 15, 2022, Justice François Lebel of the Court of Québec rendered a decision1 confirming that, in the case of the sale of immovable property, a clear and unambiguous exclusion clause, whereby the warranty is waived at the buyer’s risk, results in a break in the chain of title preventing the buyer from taking any legal action under such warranty against the seller and previous sellers. Justice Lebel thus declared the originating application against the defendants Marshall and Bergeron inadmissible and dismissed the call in warranty. This decision is consistent with the recent decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec in Blais,2 rendered in May 2022, which clarified the state of the law on the consequence of waiving a legal warranty where successive sales are involved. The facts In March 2009, the defendant Bergeron sold an income property (hereinafter the “Property”) to the defendants, the Marshalls, with a legal warranty of quality. In May 2012, the Marshalls in turn sold the Property to the defendants Hamel and Drouin, still with a legal warranty of quality. In December 2016, the defendants Hamel and Drouin resold the Property to the plaintiff, but this time [translation] “without legal warranty of quality, at the buyer’s risk, but with warranty of ownership”. In the fall of 2020, the plaintiff had work done to repair the drain tile system. It was at that point that it discovered the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil under the Property’s foundation, rendering the soil unsuitable for residential use. According to an expert report, the alleged contamination stemmed from a heating oil tank once located in a shed behind the Property. The tank was apparently removed before the sale in December 2016. The plaintiff was seeking a reduction in the sale price and to have the defendants Hamel and Drouin, as well as the two previous sellers, the defendants Marshall and Bergeron, held solidarily liable. The plaintiff referred to the warranty of quality provided for in articles 1726 and following of the Civil Code of Québec (C.C.Q.) and the warranty against public law restrictions provided for in article 1725 C.C.Q. The plaintiff also claimed to be the victim of fraud on the part of the defendants Hamel and Drouin. After being called in warranty by the defendants Hamel and Drouin, the Marshalls moved to dismiss the substantive claim and the action in warranty. They claimed that the sale of the Property between the defendants Drouin and Hamel and the plaintiff was made at the buyer’s risk and that such a clause in a subsequent deed of sale irrevocably breaks the chain of title, thereby preventing the plaintiff from taking any legal action against the seller and previous sellers. The law and the importance of a clear clause According to article 1442 C.C.Q., which codifies the principles arising from the decision in Kravitz,3 buyers may seek to have the sellers previous to their own seller held liable. However, for such an action to be deemed valid, it must be established that: The defect existed at the time that the previous sellers owned the immovable; and The right to the legal warranty was transferred to the plaintiff through subsequent sales. Indeed, the buyer of an immovable may take legal action directly against a previous seller in accordance with article 1442 C.C.Q. However, this article presupposes that the right to the legal warranty was passed on from one owner to the next, right down to the current buyer seeking to file a claim for latent defects. In other words, the legal warranty must have been transferred to each owner through the chain of title. In Blais, the Court of Appeal confirmed that an unambiguous warranty exclusion clause results in a break in the chain of title. Such a clause prevents the buyer of an immovable from taking legal action directly against the former owners who sold the immovable with a legal warranty. Given the decision in Blais, it is now clear that such a clause waiving the legal warranty closes the door to any direct recourse against a seller’s predecessors, even if such predecessors sold the immovable with a legal warranty.4 In these circumstances, a buyer who acquires an immovable at their own risk will be deprived of their right to take legal action directly against the previous sellers, insofar as the warranty exclusion clause in the deed of sale is clear and unambiguous. In this case, Justice Lebel considered that the wording of the warranty exclusion clause in the deed of sale, which was binding on the plaintiff, was clear and unambiguous, and that a sale at the buyer’s “risk” excludes both the warranty of quality and the warranty of ownership, which covers the public law restrictions of article 1725 C.C.Q. Justice Lebel indicated that there was a break in the chain of title resulting from the sale at the buyer’s risk and that the plaintiff could not claim that it was still entitled to take legal action directly against any sellers other than the defendants Hamel and Drouin. He therefore ruled in favour of the defendants Marshall and Bergeron and declared the originating application against them inadmissible. Key takeaways A warranty exclusion clause in a deed of sale will only be deemed valid if it is clear and unambiguous. The mention that a sale is made “at the buyer’s risk” completely eliminates the warranty of quality provided for in article 1726 C.C.Q. and the warranty of ownership provided for in article 1725 C.C.Q. A deed of sale containing a valid warranty exclusion clause AND a mention that the sale is made “at the buyer’s risk” precludes any recourse by the buyer against the seller, but also against previous sellers. With the current state of the Quebec real estate market, the decision in Hamel, which ties in with the Court of Appeal’s teachings in Blais, certainly clarifies how case law established in recent years should be applied, in particular as concerns the effect of a warranty exclusion clause on successive sales. The members of our Litigation and Dispute Resolution group are available to advise you and answer your questions. 9348-4376 Québec inc. c. Hamel, 2022 QCCQ 5217 Blais c. Laforce, 2022 QCCA 858. General Motors Products of Canada Ltd v. Kravitz,  1 S.C.R. 790 Supra note 1, paras. 6 and 8.
Amendments to the Charter of the French Language: Impacts on the Insurance Sector
Bill 96 – An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec (the “Act”) - was adopted on May 12, 2022 and assented to on June 1, 2022, its effective date. Certain provisions are already in force; for other provisions, a transitional period ranging from several months to three years will apply. This document provides an overview of the modifications included in the reform of the Charter of the French Language (the “Charter”) that will have an impact on various aspects relevant to insurance sector stakeholders doing business in Québec. Forming the centrepiece of the announced changes, the reform of the Charter includes strengthened oversight mechanisms governing the use of French as the language of commerce and business, as well as linguistic rights in the areas of employment and communications with agents of the State. Overseeing the language of commerce and business The reform of Section 55 of the Charter stipulates that contracts of adhesion and related documents must be drawn up in French. However, effective June 1, 2023, a French-language version of these contracts and documents must be provided to participants First Alinea of this amended section reads as follows: 55. Contracts pre-determined by one party and the related documents, must be drawn up in French. The parties to such a contract may be bound only by its version in a language other than French if, after its French version has been remitted to the adhering party, such is their express wish. The documents related to the contract may then be drawn up exclusively in that other language.1 Therefore, contractual clauses in which the parties simply indicate that they agree to be bound by a contract drawn up in a language other than French are no longer sufficient. The Civil Code of Québec stipulates that “A contract of adhesion is a contract in which the essential stipulations were imposed or drawn up by one of the parties, on his behalf or upon his instructions, and were not negotiable.”2 To qualify a contract, the importance of the negotiated terms and conditions and their connection with the contract must be analyzed. It is generally recognized that if the essential stipulations are not negotiable, the contract is a contract of adhesion, even though some less important terms and conditions may have been negotiated by the parties. This amendment codifies the interpretation adopted by the Office québecois de la langue française (“OQLF”) and the courts,3 particularly given that negotiated contracts were not covered by this provision. To remove any doubt concerning this interpretation, Bill 96 was amended so as not to extend the scope of this requirement to include contracts containing “printed standard clauses”. The insurance contract Since their essential stipulations are typically drawn up by the insurer, insurance contracts and their endorsements are contracts of adhesion, as a general rule. Therefore, the French-language version of all related documents — notices, letters, insurance product summaries — must be provided to clients before they can decide whether they will be bound by a version drawn up in another language. During the parliamentary debates, Minister Jolin-Barette commented that Section 55 of the Charter only referred to consumers and that contracts between two companies could be drawn up in the language of their choice if that was the express wish of both parties. The term “consumer”, however, is not defined in the Charter. Ambiguity remains as to whether the Minister’s comment only referred to contracts containing standard clauses or whether contracts of adhesion were included. We will have to wait for the publication of the interpretation bulletins and the annotated edition of the act to determine whether Section 55 of the Charter applies to commercial insurance policies. In the meantime, we are of the opinion that if Québec lawmakers had wanted to exclude commercial contracts of adhesion, they would have expressly done so by means of an amendment. Insurance contracts in effect before June 1, 2023 will not have to be translated, nor will insurance contracts renewed without modifications since under those circumstances, the contract would not be regarded as a new contract.4 However, if an existing insurance contract is renewed with significant modifications, it will be regarded as a new contract and the French-language version thereof must be provided to clients so they may validly express their wish to be bound by a contract drawn up in a language other than French. Given that in most cases, insurance contracts are sent out to policyholders by regular mail or email, effective June 1, 2023, insurers, agents or brokers, as applicable, will have to send both the French-language and English-language versions of the contract in the same mailing or simply send the French-language version thereof. It is important to note that the Act provides for an exception to the requirement to provide the French-language version if: The insurance policy has no equivalent in French in Québec; and The insurance policy is originates from outside Québec or is not widely available in Québec.5 [unofficial translation] In all likelihood, this exception will only apply to highly specialized insurance products and will be interpreted restrictively given the Act’s primary objective. Unlike insurance contracts and related documents, invoices, receipts, discharge notices and other similar documents may be sent out in English if the French-language version remains available on terms that are at least as favourable.6 Services and marketing in French The Act introduces the Charter’s new Section 50.2, which states that businesses must respect consumers’ fundamental linguistic right to be informed and served in French. The same section reiterates this requirement with respect to “a public other than consumers” to whom are offered goods and services and who must henceforth be informed and served in French by businesses. Unlike consumers, however, clients who are businesses do not enjoy a fundamental linguistic right protected by the Charter. As regards marketing, the addition of the words “regardless of the medium used” to Section 52 of the Charter confirms that marketing documents in “hard copy” format must be in French, as must websites. If a version is available to the public in a language other than French, the French-language version must be available on terms that are at least as favourable. This provision took effect on June 1, 2022. Chat-type platforms or those facilitating direct communications with the insurer should make it possible for members of the public to communicate with the insurer’s representatives in French at all times. Communications with insurance agents and brokers Effective June 1, 2022, insurers are required to communicate in French with insurance agents and brokers who express the desire to do so.7 In addition, all information documents sent to insurance agents and brokers regarding underwriting or claims must be in French if they so wish. As regards contractual agreements between insurers, insurance agents and brokers, the need to provide a French-language version depends on the nature of the contract, i.e. whether it can be qualified as a contract of adhesion. French in the workplace Effective June 1, 2022, all companies doing business in Québec must comply with the following requirements in the area of employment rights: Respect employees’ right to work in French8; Use French in all written communications sent to employees; Ensure that all offers of employment, promotion or transfer; individual employment contracts; employment application forms; and documents concerning employment conditions and training sent to employees are drawn up in French;9 Take all reasonable means to avoid requiring employees to have knowledge or a specific level of knowledge of a language other than French for employees to obtain employment or to maintain their position, including in particular: Assess the actual needs associated with the duties to be performed; Make sure that the language knowledge already required from other staff members was insufficient for the performance of those duties; Restrict as much as possible the number of positions involving duties whose performance requires knowledge of or a specific level of acknowledge of a language other than French.10 It should be noted that individuals whose employment contracts are currently drawn up in English have until June 1, 2023, to ask their employer to translate their contract. Effective June 1, 2025, businesses with 25 employees or more in Québec must meet additional francization requirements for their Québec employees to obtain a francization certificate, including: Registering with the OQLF; Submitting an analysis of the status of the French language within the business; Putting in place a francization program within three months following an OQLF request to that effect. The above requirements were already in effect for businesses with more than 50 employees in Québec. French as the language of the civil administration The Act includes various modifications with respect to French as the language of the civil administration. The Québec government will be required to make exemplary and exclusive use of French, with certain exceptions. Effective June 1, 2023, all agents of the State and provincial government bodies will be required to communicate in French with all persons, including business representatives. All documents exchanged with the civil authorities, as well as all contracts and permits, must be drawn up in French. Insurance sector stakeholders outside Québec should expect to receive more communications in French from the Autorité des marchés financiers (“AMF”) given that the AMF is a body of the “civil administration”. Penalties It should be noted that new powers will be granted to the OQLF enabling it to conduct investigations and impose administrative and disciplinary penalties. As regards infractions of the Charter’s provisions, the Act provides for fines ranging from $3,000 to $30,000 for businesses and from $700 to $7,000 for individuals. These fines are doubled for a second offence and tripled for further offences. In addition, if an infraction continues for more than one day, each day constitutes a separate infraction. If an infraction is committed by a corporate director or officer, the Act provides for fines ranging from $1,400 to $14,000. Questions of interpretation Various provisions have raised questions of interpretation that are still difficult to resolve at the time of writing. Interpretation bulletins and an annotated edition of the act will be published by the provincial government with a view to guiding businesses in the application of the Act; they will also help to clarify certain provisions that remain ambiguous for the time being. For further information on changes concerning trademarks, please consult a recent publication by our colleagues specializing in intellectual property. Sec. 55, Para. 1 of the Charter. Civil Code of Québec, CQLR ch. CCQ-1991, Sec. 1379, Para. 1. Westboro Mortgage Investment vs. 9080-9013 Québec inc., 2018 Superior Court of Québec 1. Leave to appeal dismissed 2019 Court of Appeal of Québec 1599. Didier LLUELLES, Droit des assurances terrestres, 6th ed., Montréal, Éditions Thémis, 2017, Para. 186. Sec. 21.5 and Sec. 55 of the Charter. Sec. 57 of the Charter. Sec. 50.2 of the Charter. Sec. 5 and Sec. 50.2 of the Charter. Sec. 41 of the Charter. Sec. 46 of the Charter.
Complaint processing: New framework to come for financial institutions and financial intermediaries
Last September, the AMF published its draft Regulation respecting complaint processing and dispute resolution in the financial sector (the “Draft Regulation”). The consultation period for it ended on December 8, 2021. The AMF is currently reviewing the many comments it received. The Draft Regulation1 aims to harmonize and improve complaint processing in the financial sector by providing for new mechanisms to ensure prompt and efficient complaint processing, among other things. In the insurance industry, only firms and insurers are currently required to adopt and apply a complaint processing and dispute resolution policy. The Draft Regulation will make these obligations apply to independent partnerships and representatives. It also introduces new requirements and restrictions as well as monetary penalties for not including mandatory content in communications to a complainant, for example. Here are some of the Draft Regulation’s new provisions: Broadening of the definition of “complaint” to: Any dissatisfaction or reproach; That cannot be remedied immediately and for which a final response is expected; In respect of a service or product offered by a financial institution or financial intermediary; That is communicated by a person who is a member of the clientele of the institution or intermediary. The Draft Regulation does not contain a requirement that a complaint must be made in writing.2 It does make it mandatory for financial institutions and financial intermediaries to implement a complaint drafting assistance service.3 It also requires that a note be left in each record to indicate whether a complainant requested this service. Prohibition on the use of the term “ombudsman” in any representation or communication intended for the public to refer to the complaint process or to the persons assigned to its implementation.4 Specific requirements as concerns the mandatory content of a complaint processing policy, an acknowledgment of receipt and final response to a complainant, a complaint record and a complaints register. For each complaint received, the complaint record must include the following information: The complaint Whether the complainant requested the complaint drafting assistance service The complainant’s initial communication A copy of the acknowledgment of receipt sent to the complainant Any document or information used in analyzing the complaint, including any communication with the complainant A copy of the final response provided to the complainant New time limits: Within 10 days of receiving a complaint, the insurer must notify the complainant in writing that they must also file the complaint with any other financial institution, financial intermediary or credit assessment agent involved, and the insurer must provide the complainant with their contact information.5 The complainant must be given 20 days to assess and respond to an offer to resolve the complaint, with sufficient time for the complainant to seek advice for the purpose of making an informed decision.6 If the complainant accepts the offer, the insurer has 30 days to respond.7 Financial institutions and financial intermediaries have a strict 60-day time limit to provide the complainant with a final response.8 There is a new 15-day time limit to send the complaint record to the AMF.9 There is a streamlined process for complaints that are resolved within 10 days of being recorded in the complaints register: The final response serves as an acknowledgment of receipt and must contain the following information: The complaint record identification code The date on which the complaint was received by the insurer or insurance representative The name and contact information of the employee responsible for processing the complaint referred to in section 7 of the Draft Regulation or in the Sound Commercial Practices Guideline A summary of the complaint received The conclusion of the analysis, including reasons, and the outcome of the complaint A reference to the complainant’s right to have the complaint record examined by the AMF The signature of the complaints officer A statement to the effect that the complainant has accepted the offer to resolve the complaint New monetary administrative penalties The Draft Regulation also provides for monetary administrative penalties ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for failure to comply with certain requirements and prohibitions of the Draft Regulation. For example, the following will be subject to a monetary administrative penalty of $5,000: Attaching a condition to an offer to prevent the complainant from fully exercising their rights. Using the term “ombudsman” or any other similar title in any representation or communication intended for the public to refer to the complaint process or the persons assigned to its implementation to suggest that such persons are not acting on behalf of the financial institution or financial intermediary. In the latter case, a monetary administrative penalty may be imposed even where no complaint is involved, because the prohibition covers “any representation or communication intended for the public.” Insurers and financial intermediaries should review their communications as soon as possible, and especially the summary of their complaint processing policy appearing on their website. It concerns all entities regulated by the AMF, but the bulletin more specifically addresses financial institutions and financial intermediaries in the insurance industry. As currently indicated on the AMF’s website. Draft Regulation, s. 11. Id., s. 26, para. 2. Id., s. 15. Id., s. 13. Id. Id., s. 12, para. 4. Id., s. 25.
Amendments to the categories of contracts covered by the exemptions to the obligation of an insurer to assume an insured’s defence—the Regulation to come into force
On April 20, 2022, the government issued Order in Council 656-2022, which makes significant amendments to the Regulation respecting categories of insurance contracts and classes of insureds that may derogate from the rules of articles 2500 and 2503 (the “Regulation”). The original version of the draft regulation with the same title (the “Draft Regulation”) was the subject of one of our publications last September. The Regulation as amended will come into force on the 15th day following the date of its publication in the Gazette officielle du Québec; that is, on May 5, 2022. Background In its articles 2500 and 2503, the Civil Code of Québec (the “C.C.Q.”) provides that the costs resulting from actions against an insured over and above the proceeds of insurance provided for in civil liability insurance contracts, including those of the defence, are borne by the insurer. In June 2021, the government amended article 2503 of the C.C.Q. to make it possible for some “categories of insurance contracts” and “classes of insureds” to be determined by regulation to depart from these rules. It is in this context that the Draft Regulation came about. It was was significantly modified following the numerous comments and observations received from various industry stakeholders. Amendments First, sections 1 and 2 were amended to specify when the insured must meet the conditions referred to in these sections, i.e., “at the time of subscription”. The duration of the contracts covered by the first two sections of the Regulation is limited to one year pursuant to the new section 3. It also specified that in the case of contract renewal, the insured must meet the conditions set out in these sections. The provisions of the former section 5 remain, with the necessary adaptations, and are now found in section 4. Finally, sections 6, 7 and 8 were simply removed. Categories of insured covered Below are the categories of insureds who may subscribe to policies that depart from the rules set out in articles 2500 and 2503 of the C.C.Q.: Section 1 Drug manufacturers under the Act respecting prescription drug insurance; Certain corporations incorporated under a private bill; and Directors, officers and trustees of such businesses, except for their activities as members of a pension committee. Section 2 Companies that are not referred to in section 1, but that meet one of the following conditions “where the total coverage under all the civil liability insurance contracts subscribed by that insured is at least $5,000,000”: Large businesses for the purposes of the Act respecting the Québec sales tax, that is, businesses that have total taxable sales in a given fiscal year in excess of $10 million; A reporting issuer or subsidiary of such a reporting issuer within the meaning of the Securities Act; A foreign business corporation within the meaning of the Taxation Act or the Income Tax Act, that is, a company that is not resident in Canada; and Directors, officers and trustees of such businesses, except for their activities as members of a pension committee. What to expect The amendments to the Draft Regulation reflect a willingness to simplify its application. In this regard, the removal of section 8 will no doubt be well received. Nevertheless, Quebec continues to be an exception to the principle of full freedom of contract. As a result, small and medium-sized enterprises in certain industries may continue to be affected by the tightening of the insurance market in Quebec, including the manufacturing sector that exports to the United States. It remains to be seen whether the Regulation will change over time. If you have any questions on the subject matter of this article or any other questions, feel free to contact a member of Lavery’s insurance team.  A-29.01.  Act constituting Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins (C-6.1), Act to establish Fondaction, le Fonds de développement de la Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux pour la coopération et l’emploi (F-3.1.2) and Act to establish the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs du Québec (F.T.Q.) (F-3.2.1).  T-0.1.  V-1.1.  I-3.  R.S.C. 1985, c. 1 (5th Supp.).
The Supreme Court of Canada’s Decision in Prelco: The Application of Limitation of Liability Clauses in Case of a Breach of a Fundamental Obligation of a Contract
Introduction Non-liability clauses are often included in many types of contracts. In principle, they are valid and used to limit (limitation of liability clause) or eliminate (exoneration clause) the liability of a party with respect to its obligations contained in a contract. The recent unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada confirms that under Quebec law, parties may limit or exclude their liability in a contract by mutual agreement. However, a party may have such a clause declared inoperative by invoking the doctrine of breach of a fundamental obligation of the contract. In this case, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed the validity of the clause at issue and circumscribed the limits of the application of the doctrine. The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision The facts The dispute relates to a contract signed between 6362222 Canada inc. (“Createch”), a consulting firm specializing in the improvement and implementation of integrated management systems, and Prelco inc. (“Prelco”), a manufacturing company specializing in the fabrication and transformation of flat glass. Under the terms of the contract that the parties concluded in 2008, Createch was to provide software and professional services to help Prelco implement an integrated management system. Createch prepared a draft contract and Prelco did not ask for any changes to the proposed conditions. A clause entitled Llimited Liability was included in the contract, which stipulated that Createch’s liability to Prelco for damages attributed to any cause whatsoever would be limited to amounts paid to Createch, and that Createch could not be held liable for any damages resulting from the loss of data, profits or revenues or from the use of products or for any other special, consequential or indirect damages. When the system was implemented, numerous problems arose and Prelco decided to terminate its contractual relationship with Createch. Prelco brought an action for damages against Createch for the reimbursement of an overpayment, costs incurred to restore the system, claims from its customers and loss of profits. Createch filed a cross-application for the unpaid balance for the project. At trial, the Superior Court of Québec concluded that the limitation of liability clause was inoperative under the doctrine of breach of fundamental obligation, because Createch had breached its fundamental obligation by failing to take Prelco’s operating needs into account when implementing the integrated management system. The Court of Appeal of Québec confirmed the trial judge’s decision and held that the doctrine of breach of fundamental obligation can annul the effect of an exoneration or limitation of liability clause by the mere fact that a breach relates to a fundamental obligation. The Supreme Court of Canada’s reasons The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the appeal and set aside the decisions of the lower courts. Per Chief Justice Wagner and Justice Kasirer, the Supreme Court held that the limitation of liability clause in the parties’ contract was valid, despite the fact that Createch had breached its fundamental obligation. The Supreme Court addressed the two legal bases for the existence of the doctrine of breach of fundamental obligation: the validity of the clause having regard to public order and he validity of the clause having regard to the requirement relating to the cause of the obligation. In this case, the Court determined that public order could not render the limitation of liability clause inoperative as the contract at issue was one by mutual agreement and the parties were free to share the risks associated with a contractual breach between them, even if the breach involved a fundamental obligation. As for the validity of the limitation of liability clause, the Court determined that it was not a no obligation clause that would exclude the reciprocity of obligations. Createch had significant obligations to Prelco, and Prelco could keep the integrated management system, obtain damages for unsatisfactory services and be compensated for necessary costs for specific performance by replacement, but no higher than what had been paid to Createch. A limitation of liability clause does not therefore deprive the contractual obligation of its objective cause and does not exclude all sanctions. The Court explains: “ Thus, art. 1371 C.C.Q. applies to contract clauses that negate or exclude all of the debtor’s obligations and, in so doing, deprive the correlative obligation of its cause. Where a contract includes such clauses, it can be said that the reciprocal nature of the contractual relationship is called into question (arts. 1371, 1378 para. 1, 1380 para. 1, 1381 para. 1 and 1458 C.C.Q.). To apply a more exacting criterion would amount to annulling or revising a contract on assessing the equivalence rather than the existence of the debtor’s prestation and, as a result, to indirectly introducing the concept of lesion, which is narrowly delimited in the Code.”1 Prelco remains bound by the limitation of liability clause in this case. The Supreme Court of Canada is of the view that the trial judge and the Court of Appeal erred in law in declaring the limitation of liability clause inoperative. It allowed Createch’s appeal. Conclusion This Supreme Court of Canada decision confirms the importance of the principles of autonomy of contracting parties and freedom of contract between sophisticated legal persons in Quebec law. The doctrine of breach of fundamental obligation does not permit the circumvention of the principle of freedom of contract: It cannot be said that an obligation is deprived of its cause when a sanction for nonperformance of obligations fundamental to the contract is provided for in a limitation of liability clause.  6362222 Canada inc. v. Prelco inc., 2021 SCC 39, para. 86..
Limitation of insurer’s duty to defend: The Draft Regulation specifying the categories of contracts covered is published
On September 8, 2021, Mr. Éric Girard, Minister of Finance, presented his Draft Regulation specifying the classes of liability insurance contracts that may derogate from public policy rules previously applicable to liability insurance (the “Draft Regulation”), namely those set out in articles 2500 and 2503 of the Civil Code of Québec (“CCQ”) concerning the insurer’s duty to defend and the exclusive application of insurance coverage to injured third parties. Background Since May 27, 2021, article 2503 CCQ reads as follows: The insurer is bound to take up the interest of any person entitled to the benefit of the insurance and assume his defence in any action brought against him. Legal costs and expenses resulting from actions against the insured, including those of the defence, and interest on the proceeds of the insurance are borne by the insurer over and above the proceeds of the insurance. However, the Government may, by regulation, determine categories of insurance contracts that may depart from those rules and from the rule set out in article 2500, as well as classes of insureds that may be covered by such contracts. The Government may also prescribe any standard applicable to those contracts. When Bill 82 was introduced for adoption, the Minister of Finance seemed to suggest that the categories that would benefit would be public companies and liability insurance for directors and officers. Although small and medium-sized enterprises are not covered by the Draft Regulation, it does provide for several categories of insureds that may benefit from exemptions. Draft Regulation – covered categories The Draft Regulation appears to cover “any liability insurance contract,” but sets out conditions that must be met by an insured in order to benefit from exemptions. Finally, many businesses and their directors and officers will be entitled to subscribe to policies that do not comply with articles 2500 and 2503 CCQ. Here is a summary of exemptions: Section 1 Category of insured Drug manufacturers under the Act respecting prescription drug insurance; Certain corporations incorporated under a private bill;1 and Directors, officers and trustees of such businesses, except for their activities as members of a pension committee. Exemptions These insureds may subscribe to policies that depart from the rules set out in article 2500 CCQ and those set out in the first and second paragraphs of article 2503 CCQ.2 Section 2 Category of insured Companies not referred to in section 1, but meeting one of the following conditions “where the total coverage under all the civil liability insurance contracts subscribed by that insured is at least $5,000,000”: Large businesses for the purpose of the Act respecting the Québec sales tax; that is, businesses that have total taxable sales in a given fiscal year in excess of $10 million; A reporting issuer or subsidiary of such reporting issuer within the meaning of the Securities Act; A foreign business corporation within the meaning of the Taxation Act (chapter I-3) or the Income Tax Act; that is, a company that is not resident in Canada; and A corporation that pursues an activity outside Canada and derives income from that activity. Directors, officers and trustees of such businesses, except for their activities as members of a pension committee. Exemptions These insureds may subscribe to policies that depart from the rules set out in article 2500 CCQ and those set out in the first and second paragraphs of article 2503 CCQ. Section 3 Category of insured Businesses not referred to in sections 1 and 2 that conduct activities to provide services provided for in the Act respecting health services and social services as: An intermediate resource not referred to in the Act respecting the representation of family-type resources and certain intermediate resources and the negotiation process for their group agreements (chapter R-24.0.2) and who is a support for elderly autonomy-type resource; A private seniors’ residence; or A private health and social services institution operating a residential and long-term care centre or rehabilitation centre. Directors, officers and trustees of such businesses, except for their activities as members of a pension committee. Exemptions These insureds may subscribe to policies that depart from the rules set out in article 2500 CCQ and those set out in the second paragraph of article 2503 CCQ only. Section 4 Category of insured Businesses that are not covered by section 2, for example because they do not have total coverage of at least $5,000,000, and that have operations outside of Canada and earn income from them. However, exemptions are possible only for coverage of these foreign activities. Policies covering the Canadian operations of businesses must comply with the rules set out in the public interest. Exemptions These insureds may purchase policies that depart from the rules set out in article 2500 CCQ and those set out in the first and second paragraphs of article 2503 CCQ. Section 6 Category of insured Businesses not referred to in any of sections 1 to 3 having primary liability insurance contracts in accordance with the provisions of articles 2500 and 2503 CCQ, covering legal costs and expenses resulting from actions against them, including those of the defence, and interest on the proceeds of the insurance. Exemptions These insureds may subscribe to complementary policies that depart from the rules set out in article 2500 CCQ and those set out in the first and second paragraphs of article 2503 CCQ. The Draft Regulation also stipulates that where an insurance policy does not provide for an obligation for an insurer to assume an insured’s defence (first paragraph of article 2503 CCQ), the insured retains the right to select counsel, but must keep the insurer informed of the progress of the proceedings and allow it to participate in the defence. Finally, the government, in article 8 of the Draft Regulation, provides that the proceeds of the insurance that are not applied exclusively to the payment of injured third parties may not exceed 50% of the proceeds of the insurance, unless the insured is found not to be liable or unless the payments to injured third parties do not reach such 50%. However, where a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage is required by law, that amount must be applied in full to the payment of injured third parties without regard to the exceptions discussed above. What to expect While some will welcome the government’s openness in allowing policyholders and insurers to relax certain obligations that may have contributed to a tightening insurance market in Quebec, others will fear the consequences that these changes may have, in particular on the availability of “non-exempt” insurance policies for insureds covered by the Draft Regulation. In any case, this is a significant change that will generate much discussion between risk managers, market intermediaries and underwriters. Also, some may be interested in obtaining additional information or commenting on the Draft Regulation. Information requests may be directed to the Direction générale du droit corporatif et des politiques relatives au secteur financier, Ministère des Finances, and comments may be made in writing to the attention of the Minister of Finance before October 23, 2021. Do not hesitate to contact a member of Lavery’s insurance team in connection with the above. Act constituting Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins (C-6.1), Act to establish Fondaction, le Fonds de développement de la Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux pour la Coopération et l'emploi (F-3.1.2) and Act to establish the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs du Québec (F-3.2.1). As reproduced above, the first paragraph of article 2500 CCQ concerns the insurer’s obligation to assume the defence of the insured with respect to covered claims, and the second paragraph specifies that the insurer assumes the legal costs, interest and expenses, over and above the proceeds of the insurance.
Bill 78 and the notion of ultimate beneficiary
Bill 78 was introduced in December 2020 by Minister Jean Boulet and given assent on June 8, 2021. It amends the Act respecting the legal publicity of enterprises (the “Act”) and its regulation, the Regulation respecting the application of the Act respecting the legal publicity of enterprises (the “Regulation”). This legislative amendment is part of a process to prevent and fight tax evasion, money laundering and corruption, and will now require registrants to disclose more of their information. Disclosure of information relating to ultimate beneficiaries The amendments set out new requirements for corporate transparency and now require registrants to disclose information about the natural persons who are their ultimate beneficiaries, including their names, domiciles and dates of birth, in order to prevent the use of nominees for tax evasion, among other things. It should be noted that the obligation to disclose the ultimate beneficiary’s domicile can be circumvented by disclosing a professional address instead. New section 35.2 of the Bill provides that “a registrant who must declare the domicile of a natural person under a provision of this Bill may also declare a professional address for the natural person.” If such an address is declared, the information relating to the domicile of that person may not be consulted. Under the Bill, a “registrant” means a person or group of persons registered voluntarily or any person, trust or partnership required to be registered. The Bill specifies that “ultimate beneficiary” means a natural person who meets any of the following conditions in respect of a registrant1: Is the holder, even indirectly, or beneficiary of a number of shares or units of the registrant, conferring on the person the power to exercise 25% or more of the voting rights attached to the shares or units; Is the holder, even indirectly, or beneficiary of a number of shares or units the value of which corresponds to 25% or more of the fair market value of all the shares or units issued by the registrant; Exercises control in fact of the registrant; or Is a general partner of a limited partnership. The Bill also provides that where natural persons holding shares or units of the registrant have agreed to jointly exercise the voting rights attached to the shares or units and the agreement confers on them, together, the power to exercise 25% or more of those voting rights, each of those natural persons is considered to be an ultimate beneficiary of the registrant. Lastly, it provides that a natural person operating a sole proprietorship is presumed to be the only ultimate beneficiary of the sole proprietorship, unless he or she declares otherwise. Notwithstanding this definition of ultimate beneficiary, it is important to note that the government may make regulations determining other conditions according to which a natural person is considered to be an ultimate beneficiary. Search by name of an ultimate beneficiary The Bill provides that a natural person’s name may be part of a compilation of information or serve as the basis for a compilation, and may be used as a search term for the purposes of a search in the enterprise register. This will allow the public to identify all corporations with which a natural person is associated, where such a person has been named the ultimate beneficiary of a registrant. However, information that may not be consulted may not be part of such a compilation or serve as the basis for one. It should be noted that the Bill also allows the government to make regulations determining the information contained in the enterprise register that may not be consulted. Conclusion This legislative amendment, particularly with the addition of the notion of ultimate beneficiary, will considerably increase disclosure requirements for corporations that are already required to communicate certain types of information to the Registraire des entreprises du Québec. We can only hope that at the end of this legislative process, the government will implement a clear and effective information disclosure system, making it easier for registrants and their advisors to manage the information that they disclose. The new section 0.3 will now be part of the new Chapter 0.1 “Purposes and definitions.”
Insurer’s Duty to Defend: The Court Rules in a Case of Contractual Breach
The question of insurers’ duty to defend is back in the spotlight. On March 18, 2021, the Superior Court once again considered the issue in its application of the law to facts relevant to the dispute.1 Facts In April 2016, Cégerco Inc. (“Cégerco”), a general contractor, retained the services of Construction Placo Inc. (“Placo”) for the supply and installation of exterior cladding made of metal wall panels, which were manufactured by Kingspan Insulated Panels Ltd. (“Kingspan”). On May 24, 2017, Cégerco resiliated its contract with Placo on the grounds that Placo had caused numerous delays to the work schedule. Placo therefore instituted proceedings against Kingspan to recover sums advanced to the company, and against Cégerco for the damages resulting from the resiliation of the contract. Kingspan and Cégerco filed cross-applications, alleging non-performance by Placo. Faced with these cross-applications, Placo turned to its insurer for it to take up its defence. However, the insurer adopted the position that it had no obligation to defend Placo or accept its insurance claim. Placo then applied to the Superior Court by way of an Wellington type application to have the insurer take up its defence in the dispute opposing it to Cégerco and Kingspan. Reasons After briefly reviewing the principles of Wellington type applications and the Supreme Court’s teachings in the landmark Progressive Homes2 decision, the Court concluded that the damages claimed in Kingspan’s cross-application did not arise from material damage or a loss. It did not dwell on this question any further, judging that insurance coverage did not apply. The Court then addressed Cégerco’s cross-application. Here again, it held that the damages claimed were not the result of material damage within the meaning of the insurance policy. Thus, after having analyzed Cégerco’s breakdown of damages claimed, it concluded that the sums represented monetary damage resulting from the fact that Placo had failed to fulfill its obligation to deliver compliant panels. The Court further noted that [translation] “monetary losses related to defective or non-compliant products” did not fall within the scope of the commercial liability insurance’s coverage. The Court drew a distinction between the facts of this case and those of Progressive Homes cited above,3pointing out that the issue here was simply the non-performance of a contract. The Court held that the panels could not be the cause of the material damage that Cégerco suffered, as they had not been installed on the building, and that the material damage [translation] “rather resulted from a normal, if not foreseeable, incident that could have occurred in the normal course of any business.” Thus, according to the Court, although Cégerco was bound to take steps to remedy the delay in the delivery of the panels, and that such steps may have resulted in damage to the structure, Placo’s breach of contract did not result in a loss that would make insurance coverage applicable. For these reasons, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s Wellington type application and that of the cross-applicant Placo. Conclusion What this decision means is that although an insurer’s duty to defend arises as soon as there is a possibility that material damage claimed falls within the scope of an insurance policy’s coverage, monetary damage suffered purely as a result of a breach of contract is not a sufficient legal basis for triggering an insurer’s duty to defend. Construction Placo inc. c. Kingspan Insulated Panels Ltd., 2021 QCCS 1230 Progressive Homes Ltd. v. Lombard General Insurance Co. of Canada, 2010 SCC 33.  2 SCR 245. Id.
Insurer's Duty to Defend: Bill 82 Opens the Door to Possible Limitations
On December 11, 2020, the Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, introduced and tabled Bill 82 entitled An Act respecting mainly the implementation of certain provisions of the Budget Speech of 10 March 2020 (hereinafter the “Bill”) before the National Assembly. The Bill opens the door to possible limitations on the duty to defend with respect to certain categories of liability insurance contracts to be determined by regulation. Background The Civil Code of Quebec (“C.C.Q.”) provides in articles 2500 and 2503 C.C.Q. that the insurance limits provided for in liability insurance contracts and the costs resulting from actions against the insured, including those associated with the defence, are borne by the insurer in excess of these limits. Since these provisions are of public order, the parties to the contract cannot agree to the contrary and the insurer's obligation to pay these defence costs is practically unlimited. The increase in the frequency and size of claims, as well as the explosion in costs associated with the defence of insureds, have contributed to a hardening of the market since 2019. In such a market, insurance companies are applying stricter pricing and demanding higher premiums. In some cases, some insurers are withdrawing completely from the market or from certain industries, creating real difficulties for many companies. The absence of a possible limitation on the insurers' duty to defend, a principle specific to Quebec, was likely to make this market less attractive to national and international insurers. Proposed legislative change The Bill provides that the insurers' duty to defend under articles 2500 and 2503 C.C.Q. may be limited with respect to certain liability insurance contracts that will be determined by regulation. If the proposed amendment is accepted in its present form, the new article 2503 C.C.Q. will henceforth read as follows: 2503. The insurer is bound to take up the interest of any person entitled to the benefit of the insurance and assume his defence in any action brought against him. Legal costs and expenses resulting from actions against the insured, including those of the defence, and interest on the proceeds of the insurance are borne by the insurer over and above the proceeds of the insurance. However, the Government may, by regulation, determine categories of insurance contracts that may depart from those rules and from the rule set out in article 2500, as well as classes of insureds that may be covered by such contracts. The Government may also prescribe any standard applicable to those contracts [Emphasis added] This amendment has no practical impact in the short term since a regulation will have to be adopted to specify the contracts that may be subject to this limitation. We anticipate that the legislator will first target more special classes of liability insurance contracts, often purchased by more sophisticated insureds, such as Directors and Officers liability insurance contracts. Nevertheless, this is a significant step forward that will undoubtedly stimulate the interest of certain specialized insurers for Quebec risks. Upcoming steps The Bill, although tabled, must go through several stages before the proposed amendment becomes law. Even if the Bill could be assented to in the coming months, a regulation giving effect to the new paragraph of article 2503 C.C.Q. will also have to be drafted and passed. We will therefore continue to monitor the progress of this legislative matter.
The Unforeseen Benefits of Driverless Transport during a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has been not only causing major social upheaval but disrupting business development and the economy as well. Nevertheless, since last March, we have seen many developments and new projects involving self-driving vehicles (SDV). Here is an overview. Distancing made easy thanks to contactless delivery In mid-April 2020, General Motors’ Cruise SDVs were dispatched to assist two food banks in the delivery of nearly 4,000 meals in eight days in the San Francisco Bay Area. Deliveries were made with two volunteer drivers overseeing the operation of the Level 3 SDVs. Rob Grant, Vice President of Global Government Affairs at Cruise, commented on the usefulness of SDVs: “What I do see is this pandemic really showing where self-driving vehicles can be of use in the future. That includes in contactless delivery like we’re doing here.”1 Also in California in April, SDVs operated by the start-up Nuro Inc. were made available to transport medical equipment in San Mateo County and Sacramento. Toyota Pony SDVs were, for their part, used to deliver meals to local shelters in the city of Fremont, California. Innovation: The first Level 4 driverless vehicle service In July 2020, Navya Group successfully implemented a Level 4 self-driving vehicles service on a closed site. Launched in partnership with Groupe Keolis, the service has been transporting visitors and athletes on the site of the National Shooting Sports Centre in Châteauroux, France, from the parking lot to the reception area. This is a great step forward—it is the first trial of a level 4 vehicle, meaning that it is fully automated and does not require a human driver in the vehicle itself to control it should a critical situation occur. Driverless buses and dedicated lanes in the coming years In August 2020, the state of Michigan announced that it would take active steps to create dedicated road lanes exclusively for SDVs on a 65 km stretch of highway between Detroit and Ann Arbour. This initiative will begin with a study to be conducted over the next three years. One of the goals of this ambitious project is to have driverless buses operating in the corridor connecting the University of Michigan and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport in downtown Detroit. In September 2020, the first SDV circuit in Japan was inaugurated at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. The regular route travels 700 metres through the airport. A tragedy to remind us that exercising caution is key On March 18, 2018, in Tempe, Arizona, a pedestrian was killed in a collision with a Volvo SUV operated by an Uber Technologies automated driving system that was being tested. The vehicle involved in the accident, which was being fine-tuned, corresponded to a Level 3 SDV under SAE International Standard J3016, requiring a human driver to remain alert at all times in order to take control of the vehicle in a critical situation. The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the vehicle’s automated driving system had detected the pedestrian, but was unable to classify her as such and thus predict her path. In addition, video footage of the driver inside the SDV showed that she did not have her eyes on the road at the time of the accident, but rather was looking at her cell phone on the vehicle’s console. In September 2020, the authorities indicted the driver of the vehicle and charged her with negligent homicide. The driver pleaded not guilty and the pre-trial conference will be held in late October 2020. We will keep you informed of developments in this case. In all sectors of the economy, including the transportation industry and more specifically the self-driving vehicles industry, projects have been put on hold because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, many projects that have been introduced, such as contactless delivery projects, are now more important than ever. Apart from the Navya Group project, which involves Level 4 vehicles, all the initiatives mentioned concern Level 3 vehicles. These vehicles, which are allowed on Quebec roads, must always have a human driver present. The recent charges against the inattentive driver in Arizona serve as a reminder to all drivers of Level 3 SDVs that regardless of the context of an accident, they may be held liable. The implementation of SDVs around the world is slow, but steadily gaining ground. A number of projects will soon be rolled out, including in Quebec. As such initiatives grow in number, SDVs will become more socially acceptable, and seeing these vehicles as something normal on our roads is right around the corner. Financial Post, April 29, 2020, “Self-driving vehicles get in on the delivery scene amid COVID-19,”.