Insurance Business MPI holds dog owners liable for car damages

MPI holds dog owners liable for car damages A public insurer recently filed a suit against a Winnipeg husband and wife after the couple’s dog was fatally struck by a car two years ago: the insurer alleges that the two are liable to damages, with the case heading to small claims court.

Anastasia and Kris Rzesnoski were the owners of “Bobby Orr,” a Labrador retriever named after Kris’s favorite hockey player. Bobby was running free without a leash on his first birthday, Feb. 26, 2015, when he attempted to run across Hoddinot Road and was struck by a car. Bobby was staying at the time with Kris’s father, Terry Rzesnoski, in East St. Paul, as Anastasia was recovering from a surgery. Terry had stepped inside the house momentarily to prepare for Bobby’s birthday when tragedy struck.

The driver of the 2014 Toyota Corolla that hit Bobby then immediately stopped the car and apologized to Terry for what happened. After exchanging information, the motorist left. The driver claimed that he did not see the dog come from behind the garbage and recycling bin.

Two months after the incident, Terry received a letter from Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), which said that he was responsible for the cost of repairing the damaged vehicle under the province’s Animal Liability Act. MPI billed him $2,536.97.

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Although the correspondence was addressed to her father-in-law, Anastasia said that she and her husband are assuming responsibility for the bill, reasoning that Bobby was their dog in the first place.

The letter, however, incorrectly stated that the accident happened on a highway near Winnipegosis – almost four hours from East St. Paul.

“It wasn’t anywhere close to where the accident happened so we advised them that they’d made a mistake and sent the letter to the wrong person,” Anastasia told CBC.

Three months later, a second letter arrived from MPI, this time with the correct address of the incident. The second letter reiterated that the Rzesnoskis owed money for repairs, and that they should forward the information to their home insurer for handling. The couple doubted the authenticity of the letter, and chose not to respond.

A third letter came in September 2015, but it cited a different claim number and name of claimant than that previously listed in the past letters. A fourth one also arrived in November, which threatened legal action unless the Rzesnoskis responded immediately.

Throughout this entire period, the Rzesnoskis never received any phone calls from the insurer.

After the fourth, the Rzesnoskis did not hear from the insurer until very recently, on Feb. 16, 2017. A new letter arrived, informing the couple that they were being taken to small claims court.

The Rzesnoskis plan to appear in court to dispute the claim.
Although MPI officially cannot comment on the specifics of the case, a spokesperson for the company told CTV that the insurer has “the legal obligation to pursue such costs on behalf of our ratepayers, in efforts to keep rates among the lowest in Canada.”

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