Ontario Superior Court confirms License Appeal Tribunal cannot award punitive damages

LAT's jurisdiction is explicitly defined and limited by statute: court

Ontario Superior Court confirms License Appeal Tribunal cannot award punitive damages

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has confirmed that the License Appeal Tribunal (LAT) lacks jurisdiction to award punitive damages under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS Schedule).

The appellant sought to overturn a LAT decision that concluded it did not possess the authority to deliberate on claims for punitive damages in disputes concerning statutory accident benefits. The appellant's central argument was based on perceived inconsistencies with the SABS Schedule, asserting that LAT should possess the ability to implement such measures as punitive damages to penalize insurers for misconduct.

In reviewing the appeal, the Superior Court considered several legal and statutory aspects. The court noted that according to the Licence Appeal Tribunal Act, 1999 and subsequent interpretations by higher courts, LAT's jurisdiction is explicitly defined by statute without inherent judicial powers. It referenced s. 280 of the Insurance Act, which explicitly assigned the resolution of disputes regarding entitlement and amounts of statutory accident benefits to the LAT, barring any proceedings in other courts except for appeals from LAT decisions or judicial reviews.

The court upheld the LAT’s view, distinguishing punitive damages as financial compensations for tort claims, unlike principles like res judicata applied in its decisions. The LAT found its jurisdiction strictly bounded by the statutes, specifically mentioning that punitive damages do not fall within the remedial scope provided by the legislative framework governing accident benefits disputes. The decision affirmed the LAT's limited jurisdiction as outlined by existing statutory frameworks and previous case law.

Further, the court rejected the appellant’s constitutional challenge against s. 280 of the Insurance Act. It held that the Supreme Court of Canada had recognized the legislature's authority to modify common law and stipulated LAT's exclusive jurisdiction over statutory accident benefits disputes, including the types of remedies it can grant, which do not include punitive damages.

The Superior Court’s decision reaffirmed that while the LAT can address unreasonable insurer behaviours by deeming benefits incurred or granting awards under specific regulatory provisions, it cannot extend to awarding punitive damages.

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