Insurance liability concerns close off boat launch to the public

Industry expert warns property owners that they, too, could be on the hook for personal injury claims

Insurance liability concerns close off boat launch to the public

Insurance News

By Lyle Adriano

A couple of popular boat launches in Sudbury, ON have been closed off to the public due to issues concerning insurance liability.

Locals who hoped to get their boats on to McFarlane Lake over the Victoria Day weekend were surprised to discover that the two boat launches had been gated and locked, with signs that say “no trespassing.”

“These launches have been used (by the public) forever … and this is the only access to the lake for a lot of people,” Lindsy Sauve, whose family has been using the launches for years, told

Sauve and other residents of the area have assumed for years that the strip of land where the launches were located was Crown property. But it turns out that the South Lane Road land is part of a larger property on the opposite side of the road, which makes it private property.

One of the owners of the property, John Sauve (no relation to Lindsy Sauve), explained that he also thought the launches were separate from his property until a detailed survey revealed otherwise.

“Our entire winter has been dedicated to trying to make sure that there won’t be a problem with that because we didn’t even know, first of all, that it was on our property – and even then we didn’t even have a clue that it was going to be such a headache,” he said.

John added that after his insurance company learned that the strip of land where the launches are was being used for a public boat launch, the insurer refused to provide coverage. The insurer reasoned that it was because of potential lawsuits that could arise should someone get injured while using the launches, or if there was property damage that led to an insurance claim. reported that after a long search, John was finally able to find an insurer who could offer coverage – with the caveat that John set up a non-profit association that restricted access to the launches, limiting potential liability. John would also have to put up a gate and offer a key only to members of the non-profit.

On top of restricting access, John said that a fee will be charged for members, to cover insurance costs and for maintaining the area. He offered assurances that the fee would be no more than what is necessary.

Pete Karageorgos, Insurance Bureau of Canada Ontario director of consumer and industry relations, explained that property owners could get sued for any reason, and that closing off the launches to all but a select few is a smart move.

“So especially in situations where the activity is much higher risk than someone just knocking on your door and delivering mail — something like people launching a boat and then injuring themselves — they could be held liable,” Karageorgos explained.

Karageorgos added that before insuring properties like John’s, insurers would typically require property owners to reduce their risk, such as by limiting access through a gate or controlling who can come in and out.

The IBC director warned that there are many personal injury lawyers looking to exploit such liability issues.

“One just needs to look around and see the amount of advertisements from injury lawyers who promise, if you’ve been hurt, you know, we’ll get you the money,” he told “They make it appear as though [getting hurt] is like winning the lottery, right? So obviously people need to be concerned about having a boat launch on your property that’s publicly available or accessible.”

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