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digest of the week — accident or suicide?

2013 CarswellNB 144
MacPherson Estate v. Clarica Life Insurance Co.
New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench
Judgment: March 26, 2013

Insurance | Extent of risk (exclusions) | Life insurance | Suicide

Deceased died when his vehicle was struck by train at crossing — Deceased was insured by policies issued by defendant insurers for specific amounts payable if his death was caused by accident — Insurers denied that beneficiaries were entitled to those amounts — Insurers contended that death was not accidental — Plaintiffs brought action arising from denial of claims — Action dismissed — Finding of court was that deceased had intentionally parked his vehicle on railway crossing in path of train with intention of ending his life — There was relevant and compelling evidence that deceased had serious financial problems which would become worse following retirement, and deceased knew that several of his insurance policies were about to expire or rise in cost — Further, deceased knew time of approach of train, and his conduct demonstrated his intention to place his vehicle across tracks when he saw train approaching — Although court did not accept coroner's conclusion of suicide as determinative, insurers were justified in doing so — Coroner was in better position to investigate, and insurers were not equipped nor required to go behind this determination — Mere fact of insurer defending claim for benefits which it believed, even in error, claimant was not entitled to, did not constitute bad faith — There was no evidence of conduct on behalf of insurers which could be characterized as bad faith.

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