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Happy Halloween!

Boo! Happy Halloween from Wolfe Lawyers!

It's time for a fun night of trick-or-treating. Here are a few basic tips to help make sure it's a safe one:

Walk Safely:

• Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.

• Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.

• Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.

• Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.

• Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to
the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.

• Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

Drive Extra Safely on Halloween:

• Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighbourhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.

• Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.

• Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.

• Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.

• Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day
to spot children from greater distances.

• Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.

For more tips, check out this web site.
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Life Insurance Payout Denied

Some life insurance policies include an exclusion where the policy holder has died while committing a crime or died "as a result of" criminal activity. In such circumstances payout under the policy will be denied by the insurer.

This is precisely what happened to Vanessa Valentyne when she sought payment under her son's life insurance policy from The Canada Life Assurance Company. Vanessa's son, Kevin, was a known drug dealer. In 2013 he was out for lunch with his girlfriend when he was summoned to a house by two of his associates. He drove to the location and left his girlfriend in the running car while he stepped inside the house. He was never seen or heard from again.

Four years later, a British Columbia Supreme Court justice has upheld the insurer's refusal to issue payment under the policy on the grounds that the exclusion applied: "I need only be satisfied on a balance of probabilities that his death was a result of his involvement in criminal activity," wrote Justice Catherine Murray. "The only rational conclusion is that Mr. Valentyne was murdered as a result of his involvement in drug trafficking, a criminal offence."

You can read more about the interesting facts underlying this decision here and here.
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The Dangers of Pool Entrapment

Pool entrapment occurs when a swimmer becomes trapped due to pump suction, ladders, filters or drains. Resulting injuries can be very serious and may include death by drowning, evisceration or disembowelment. Unfortunately, pool entrapment remains a somewhat hidden danger. Parents and swimmers don’t often think of the issue.

Possibly the most widely-known case of pool entrapment occurred in the United States. A 7 year old girl named Virginia became trapped due to suction from a spa drain. The suction held her under the water and despite her parent’s efforts to rescue her, she drowned. The United States has since enacted the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act which aims to implement safety initiatives to pool and spa facilities.

Canadian standards are put in place to help educate, govern and warn swimmers of pool entrapment. Health Canada and other resources speak to the overall sensible use of water facilities and owner responsibilities. National safety standards ask that “every owner and every operator shall ensure that they identify and render safe all hazards related to underwater entrapment and suction points within the swimming pool.”

It is important that pool owners/operators, parents and swimmers alike are educated, understand the associated risks and know how to take preventative measures. Measures may include:

  1. Properly inspecting the pool drains and systems to ensure they are modernized and safe and that older, dangerous models are replaced

  1. Educating all swimmers to stay away from pool and spa drains, pipes and other protrusions and openings

  1. Educating all swimmers to tie their hair back and remove loose clothing and jewelry before swimming
The summer is here and the weather is hot. Make sure to consider safety precautions, especially with children, when enjoying the water.
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Out Of Country Injuries

Traveling out of the country to take a break from work or nasty winter weather is usually an exciting and refreshing experience. However, accidents can occur anywhere. The injured traveler would be surprised to learn of the many difficulties faced when attempting to recover financial compensation for his or her losses. The standard of care varies from country to country. Bringing a claim against a hotel/resort or medical practitioner can come with many unforeseen roadblocks.

Some countries prohibit personal injury claims altogether; while others adopt a very short time period during which a claim can be made. It is important that travellers consult a local lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer should be well-versed in the personal injury compensation system in that jurisdiction.

In certain circumstances it is possible to sue a foreign hotel/resort in Ontario for an injury sustained out of the country. The court will look to see if certain criteria are present in deciding whether to assume jurisdiction. This criteria was set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in the decision of Van Breda v. Club Resorts Ltd. As a side note, there are also difficulties in claiming against tour providers or operators located in Ontario. Though they may operate in the province, they are seldom found liable for these types of incidents as they typically have no control over the hotel or resort.
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When Following the Law Leads to Unfair Results

In Soczek v. Allstate Insurance Co., the plaintiff’s husband attempted to kill her by pouring gasoline on her and lighting her on fire. The plaintiff sustained significant injuries and in the midst of the tragic events the family home was burned down. The plaintiff was co-owner of the home with her husband and they were co-insured under an Allstate homeowner's insurance policy. The plaintiff advised her insurer of the fire and sought reimbursement for the damage caused to her home. The insurer refused coverage. It relied on an exclusionary clause in the plaintiff’s policy. The clause excluded coverage for property damage caused by any “intentional or criminal act” by a person insured under the policy, which included the plaintiff's husband.

Justice Morgan heard the motion. His decision highlighted the unfairness of this exclusion clause and acknowledged the hardship and position of the plaintiff. Nevertheless, he decided in favour of the insurer and dismissed the plaintiff's case. The plaintiff was left with the loss of her home and no insurance coverage to repair it.

The fall-out of the decision was not a determining factor in the overall analysis. As difficult as it is to understand, the judge’s hands were tied in the matter. The law in Ontario is clear; it has dealt with this exclusion clause in the past and has refused to put it aside.

Other provinces have taken a pro-active approach to avoid such unjust scenarios by enacting a bar against these types of exclusionary clauses. Unfortunately, Ontario has not followed suit. There’s no doubt that there is fundamental injustice in this decision. It is a prime example of how the law doesn’t always consider fairness and iniquity.

You can read the decision in its entirety here.
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