The Art and Science of Policy Interpretation: A Review of Supreme Court of Canada Decisions in the Past 30 Years


Over the past 30 years, the Supreme Court of Canada has interpreted numerous types of insurance policies, with varying subject matters from construction defects to murder. In each case, the terms of the policies have differed; however, the Court’s approach to interpretation has been relatively consistent. Set out in chronological order, the following collection of cases from the Supreme Court of Canada represents 30 years of policy interpretation. The chronology allows the reader to witness the development of the art and science of interpreting a policy of insurance.

Our review begins with the seminal case of Consolidated Bathurst Export Ltd. v. Mutual Boiler and Machinery Insurance Co., wherein Justice Estey, writing for the Court, set out many of the principles of policy interpretation followed by Canadian courts today. The chronology ends with Progressive Homes Ltd. v. Lombard General Insurance Company of Canada and Justice Rothstein’s summary and extension of the principles espoused by Justice Estey in Consolidated, supra, thus fortifying their currency and significance in Canadian law.

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