06/22/2012 10:15 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Top court rules in favour of city in falling-tree fatality

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of the city of Westmount, on Montreal island, in the case of a man killed when a tree fell on his car.

In August 2006, Gabriel Rossy, 27, was in the driver's seat of his parked car on Côte-des-Neiges Road in Westmount, during a violent storm, when an old poplar tree crashed down onto his vehicle.

The coroner's report on Rossy's death confirmed the tree was rotten and said the accident was preventable.

The Rossy family was fighting for the right to sue the City of Westmount for negligence.

But the city claimed it cannot be held responsible for Rossy's death, since he was inside the car. Quebec's no-fault insurance law should apply instead, the city said.

Quebec's Superior Court ruled in the city's favour, saying it was an issue between the family and the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec, the provincial automobile insurance board.

But in November 2010, Quebec's Court of Appeal overturned that ruling, saying the fact Rossy was in a car was not a factor in his death.

Westmount appealed to the highest court in Canada to decide whether the city can be sued.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Quebec Court of Appeal looked at the issue too narrowly and did not appreciate what Quebec's government had in mind when it brought in the no-fault insurance law. Canada's highest court sided with the province's Superior Court ruling, saying the family's compensation will be limited to what is provided for in Quebec's automobile insurance system.