Are university students truly independent of their parents? As
much as they would like their parents to believe they are, when it
comes to automobile insurance and SEF 44 contracts, these students
may not be.
In January of 2008, Ben Gardiner was enrolled in his second year
at Carleton University in Ottawa. Like many university students,
Gardiner had lived in residence during his first year and then
moved to a nearby campus apartment during his second year. Gardiner
returned home to his mother's house in Renfrew, Ontario in the
summer months, and would visit her twice a month during the school
Unfortunately, during that second year of university Gardiner
was a passenger involved in a serious motor vehicle collision with
a city bus, which killed all the other occupants of the car and
left Gardiner with multiple fractures and a brain injury.
Gardiner sued the driver of the car, the City of Ottawa, and his
mother's insurer Intact on the basis that Gardiner was a
dependent child and entitled to benefits under his mother's SEF
44 insurance policy.
The deceased driver's insurer, State Farm Insurance Company,
denied coverage and refused to defend the driver on the basis that
the driver was not lawfully authorized to drive.
In response to Gardiner's claim against his mother's SEF
44 insurance policy, Intact brought a summary judgment motion
asking the court to determine whether Intact owed benefits to
Gardiner. The main issues were:
Whether Gardiner was considered to
have been living with his mother at the time of the accident;
Whether Gardiner was considered
financially independent of his mother at the time of the
On the first issue, the Court determined that as all of
Ben's mail continued to be sent to his mother's address,
including his student file, loan documents, bank accounts, and
driver's licence, therefore Gardiner's permanent address
was his mother's home.
On the second issue, financial experts had been retained by each
party to discuss Gardiner's financial contribution or reliance
upon his mother's household. However, the Court determined that
this was not necessary. Given that Gardiner was a permanent
resident of his mother's household, the Court determined that
Gardiner was a dependent and an eligible claimant under his
mother's SEF 44 policy.
You can read Gardiner v. MacDonald Estate, 2015 ONSC
227 in its entirety here.
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