Conjugal Relationship does not a Spouse Make

September 12, 2013

The Superior Court has given us some guidance on what it means to have lived in a conjugal relationship for the three-year period before a motor vehicle accident.

In ING v. Co-operators, the arbitrator found that Amy and Jason, who were both 20 years of age at the time of the accident, “had been in a continuous, exclusive and supportive relationship from the age of 13”. He found that their “conjugal relationship started when they were approximately 15 years of age.  As time progressed, their relationship blossomed from a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship to a mature and adult relationship”. He ultimately concluded that Amy and Jason were “spouses” under the Insurance Act, finding they had lived together in a conjugal relationship outside marriage continuously for a period of not less than three years.

The appeal judge disagreed. She found that it was difficult to accept that Jason and Amy “lived together” for the purpose of the spousal definition under the Act for the three-year period leading up to the accident. She noted that Amy lived full-time with her friend’s family from January to September 2005, a time frame encompassing part of the relevant period for the definition of spouse that began to run as of the May 28, 2005 accident.  During the relevant period, she only began to sleep over at Jason’s parents’ residence on weekends and holidays. 

From September 2005 onward, Amy lived at her parents’ home during the week and her family allowed her to spend weekends at Jason’s parents’ residence.  While she spent more time at the residence thereafter, the judge held that the full three years prior to the accident must be considered.  Amy stayed at Jason’s parents’ residence only on weekends and holidays, gradually increasing this time in the year prior to the accident, but still splitting the week between her mother’s house and Jason’s parent’s residence.

Accordingly, the judge allowed the appeal and found that although Jason and Amy were in a conjugal relationship for a number of years before the accident, they were not living together “continuously” for the three-year period before the accident.

See Ing Insurance Company of Canada v. Co-Operators Insurance Company, 2013 ONSC 4885 (CanLII).


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