A Hamilton homeowner wanted $45,000 for 11 medical marijuana plants stolen from his yard. Insurance paid only $11,000. The dispute went to court.
Tara Walton / Toronto Star
To a Hamilton man, his stolen medical marijuana plants were household “contents.” His insurer considered them landscaping, and subject to a capped amount. The dispute landed in court.
A Hamilton homeowner was paid $11,000 by his insurance company for 11 medical marijuana plants that were stolen from his yard.
But Darren Stewart thought the sum wasn’t enough and so he sued for $45,000 and additional amounts for mental and physical suffering.
He argued in court that the insurance company owed him the extra money because the plants weren’t landscaping but “contents” of his home. The judge rejected his argument.
The case illustrates why it is important to understand the fine print of your insurance policy, particularly if the coverage is not specifically described in the contract.
Stewart has licences to grow medical marijuana for his own use. In September 2010, six plants in his back yard were stolen. A year later, another five plants were taken.
His property was insured by TD General Insurance. The policy covered trees, plants and shrubs to a maximum of 5 per cent of the total insured value of the home. The maximum per plant was $1,000.
The insurance company paid him $1,000 for each of the 11 stolen plants, but Stewart didn’t think that was enough. In two separate court applications, he sued TD for a total of $45,000. He said this was the full value of the plants under his policy’s personal property provision. This section of the policy insured the contents of his home and any property owned or used that is “usual to the ownership or maintenance of a dwelling.”
In each case he also claimed $180,000 for breach of contract and mental and physical suffering as a result of the thefts.
Justice James Ramsay ruled in March 2013 that it was a stretch to say plants growing in the yard were household contents. He also questioned whether growing medical marijuana was “a typical use” of the premises as contemplated by the policy. As a result, he rejected Stewart’s argument and dismissed the claim.
Stewart appealed the decision to the Ontario Divisional Court and in March 2014 his appeal was dismissed. He has filed a motion with the Ontario Court of Appeal requesting further leave to appeal.
New federal regulations came into effect on April 1 that prohibit people like Stewart from growing medical marijuana for their own use. These rules restrict its production to a handful of commercial growers.
A post on Health Canada’s website says growers have until the end of the month to file a notice confirming they have destroyed their medical marijuana plants or they may face prosecution.
But the new regulations have already been challenged. On March 21, Federal Court Judge Michael Manson issued an injunction exempting patients with licences from the new regulations.
The federal government has appealed Manson’s ruling. The appeal will likely be heard within the next year.
The injunction means that until further direction from the courts, patients licensed to grow medical marijuana under the old rules, like Stewart, can continue to do so.