AM Ford owner Dan Ashman just wants fair compensation for vehicles affected by acid spills that occurred on the highway through Trail in April and May of 2018.
Ashman says that ICBC is using a technicality to avoid paying claims on 13 vehicles traded into AM Ford before consequences of the April 10 and May 23, 2018 acid spills were realized in Trail.
The effects of the spill on vehicles did not come to light until a July 5 Trail Times article revealed that 19 claims were filed with ICBC due to vehicles driving through the caustic liquid.
ICBC has since rejected the dealerships claims totalling about $140,000, and, as a result, Ashman has been forced to use a clause in the sales contract to shift that burden to his customers by taking legal action.
In turn, he expects his customers to sue ICBC.
“If you don’t declare damage over $2,000 when you trade your vehicle in you’re in breach of your contract,” Ashman told the Trail Times.
In this rare case, both the customer and dealer had no way of knowing that any damage had occurred, and although both parties were insured at the time of the incident, neither can make claims to ICBC.
ICBC refused to cover AM Ford under their compulsory public liability insurance, or the original owners of the vehicles because they no longer owned the vehicles.
Suing your own customers is not good for business, especially in a small community, and the stress it has caused over more than two years has taken its toll on both Ashman and his customers.
“I want this thing to go away,” said Ashman. “I shouldn’t be put in a position where I have to sue my customers, who are also ICBC customers. It’s a heavy-handed, untoward approach by ICBC.”
Westcan Bulk Transport was transporting sulphuric acid from Teck Trail operations to the IRM Transload Station in Waneta when the spills occurred. The first extended 16 kilometres from the plant, through town, and out to the reload station. The May 23 spill stretched approximately five km along Highway 3B from the smelter to Shavers Bench.
At the time of the first spill, Westcan sent out a statement saying; “Anyone who was travelling in the vicinity at the time of the release and is concerned that their vehicle may have come in contact with the product should run their vehicle through an automatic car wash as a precaution to safely dilute and remove any residue.”
According to ICBC, about 4,800 claims related to the acid spills were filed, and 480 or 10 per cent of those vehicles were found to be exposed to the acid and deemed total losses.
Due to the overwhelming number of claims, ICBC facilities could not respond to inspect the AM Ford’s vehicles in a timely manner, so Ashman had an independent insurer inspect them.
ICBC informed Ashman, that “(It) has never tested any of your vehicles so we have no evidence that any of your vehicles were affected by acid spills.
“There was no contractual relationship in place between your dealership and ICBC when the alleged damage occurred. Accordingly, there is no ICBC Insurance policy to cover your potential losses,” wrote Brenda Adlem, senior legal counsel for ICBC, in a June 13, 2019 letter provided by Ashman.
According to ICBC, the insurer “retained a technical expert to help us review individual claims. As the spills were caused by other parties, ICBC has also taken legal action against the parties involved in an effort to recoup losses on behalf of our ratepayers.”
In April 2019, ICBC filed a notice of civil claim against corporate defendants Teck, IRM, and Westcan Bulk Transport, in addition to two commercial truck drivers, municipal defendants the City of Trail and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Environment as Crown defendants.
ICBC’s claim is before the court so it cannot discuss further details.
For Ashman, after more than 35 years of paying public insurance to ICBC, he believes a more practical resolution than expensive litigation be considered.
“They are trying to hang their hat on a technicality and a publicly owned insurance company that’s owned by the citizens of B.C. should not be trying to do that.”