Dhingra v. Dhingra Estate 2012 ONCA 261
Insurance - Life insurance - Defences and exclusions - Death of insured caused by wrongful act of beneficiary
In 1998, Dhingra acquired a group life insurance policy. Although he and his wife had been separated since 1992, he named his wife the beneficiary. Under the policy, his wife was also named an insured and Dhingra the beneficiary. In 2006, Dhingra killed his wife. In 2008, he was tried on a charge of second degree murder, but found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCR). Dhingra, as beneficiary, claimed the $50,000 insurance proceeds respecting his deceased ex-wife.
The Ontario Superior Court, in a decision reported  O.T.C. Uned. 3741, dismissed Dhingra’s claim to the insurance proceeds, which were being held in court. The court held that the rule of public policy prohibiting a person from benefiting from his own criminal act was applicable. Dhingra appealed, arguing that the public policy rule did not apply to a beneficiary who was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed that a person who was found not to be criminally responsible on account of mental disorder was not prevented from taking under an insurance policy (i.e., the common law public policy rule did not apply). The court held further, that the common law rule was not supplanted by the forfeiture provisions of the Civil Remedies Act, which applied to an NCR accused. Rather, in such a situation, the Crown could apply to have the insurance proceeds forfeited, but such an order was not automatic. In the result, the court allowed the appeal. The court ruled that the insurance proceeds were rightfully payable to Dhingra, but stayed the order for 30 days to give the Attorney General time to apply for an order under the Civil Remedies Act.