Only Committee Under Patients Property Act Can Sue On Behalf of the Patient

Daum Estate v Sovereign General Insurance Co. 2012 BCSC 1052  discusses how only the committee of a patient under the Patients Property act can enforce the provisions of a contract on behalf of the patient, and no one else.

The Public Guardian and Trustee took control of the assets of Carole Barbara Daum including her  house.

On assuming control of the assets, the Public Guardian purchased a policy of insurance from the defendant insurance company.  The policy provided coverage in the event of damage to the house or to personal property and provided for additional living expenses.

The house was destroyed by fire on February 16, 2011, a year after her death.

The applicant  is her son and the administrator of her estate.

All the property was lost in the fire.

Tyrone Daum applies for an order that the policy of insurance “covers … the immediate family of Carole Barbara Daum, including her two sons Jeffrey Daum and Tyrone Daum” and therefore he asks the court for an order that the defendant pay to the Estate of Carole Barbara Daum $78,220 plus court ordered interest in accordance with a proof of loss sworn on February 15, 2012.

On the recommendation of an adjuster the defendant insurer paid the limits of coverage for the loss of the house and paid $3,960 to the estate of the late Carole Barbara Daum as an indemnity for the personal property which the adjuster advised belonged to the estate of Ms. Daum and which was lost in the fire.

The defendant declines to indemnify Tyrone Daum for the loss of other personal property belonging to him and for the additional living expenses he claimed in the proof of loss.

The claim was dismissed.

The policy of insurance purchased from the defendant by the Public Guardian states that “Only the person(s) named on the Coverage Summary Page(s) may take legal action against us”.  The word “us” is defined to mean the defendant insurance company.  On the Coverage Summary Page only the Public Guardian and Trustee is named.

The Public Guardian and Trustee alone was entitled to sue the defendant to enforce the policy.  This is consistent with the usual rule that only a party to a contract is entitled to sue on it.

Ms. Daum was a patient within the meaning of the Patients Property Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 349 and on becoming Ms. Daum’s committee the Public Guardian and Trustee had all the rights, privilege and powers with regard to the estate of Ms. Daum as Ms. Daum would have if she had been of sound and disposing mind. 

The Public Guardian and Trustee was entitled to manage the affairs of Ms. Daum and to enter into contracts for that purpose.

Section 22(1) of the Patients Property Act precludes any person other than the committee from pursuing an action on behalf of a patient.  Rule 20-2(2) precludes a person under a legal disability from pursuing an action in his or her own name. I have no doubt the intention of the parties to the insurance contract was that the right of action was vested in the Public Guardian and Trustee alone.  Ms. Daum never had the right to sue on the policy.  Furthermore, even if the late Ms. Daum had enjoyed a right of action it would have been to recover an indemnity only for loss of property she owned.

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