The Court has recently determined that a coffee spill at a drive-through can be considered a motor vehicle “accident”. This decision potentially opens the door for persons who suffer this hot java fate to apply for and receive Accident Benefits through their automobile insurer.

In the case Dittman v. Aviva Insurance Co. of Canada, 2016 ONSC 6429, the female plaintiff purchased a coffee at the drive-through window of a McDonald’s restaurant. She received her coffee through the window and attempted to place the coffee in the vehicle’s cup holder. While doing so, the lid slipped off the coffee cup, spilling scalding hot coffee on the plaintiff’s thighs. The plaintiff thereafter made an application for Accidents Benefits through her automobile insurer. Accident Benefits can be received if a person is injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident. The defendant insurance company brought a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim, arguing that the plaintiff’s loss did not result from an “accident” as defined by the Accident Benefits legislation.

The Court dismissed the defendant’s motion, finding that the incident was in fact an “accident”. The Court stated that “but for” the use of the vehicle, the plaintiff’s injuries would not have occurred. She would not have been through the drive-through lane, would not have received the coffee while in a seated position, would not have been transferring the cup across her body to the cup holder, and would not have had her coffee spill on her lap. Moreover, if she had not been seated in her running vehicle and restrained by a lap and shoulder belt, she might have been able to take action to evade all or part of the spill. The coffee spill was not an intervening act that was outside the ordinary course of things. The Court concluded that the plaintiff’s loss resulted from an “accident” as defined by the Accidents Benefits Schedule.

Therefore, if you are injured by scalding hot coffee while at a drive-through you may now have a viable claim for Accident Benefits through your automobile insurer.