Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies

Article Title

Is an Ounce of Prevention Worth a Pound of Cure? Applying the Doctrine of Imminent Peril to Environmental Calamities


Myles Thompson


Claims for damages to insured property due to environmental calamities are becoming more common place. As the insurance industry experiences an increasing number of environment-related claims, property owners are being saddled with increasing insurance premiums to cover the growing risks associated with environmental perils. This paper examines the application of the doctrine of imminent peril as it relates to insurance law in the context of such environmental insurance claims. In doing so, the paper reviews the history of the doctrine and critically examines the decision of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in Garden View Restaurant Ltd. v Portage La Prairie Mutual Insurance Co. where the doctrine was unsuccessfully applied in the context of a domestic oil spill clean-up claim. Through this critical analysis it is proposed that despite the Court’s narrowing of the application of the doctrine of imminent peril, it may still be applied to future domestic oil spill cases. Finally, the Court of Appeal’s reasoning is used to examine how an insured property owner may apply the doctrine of imminent peril to take proactive steps to protect their insured assets from environmental calamities arising from climate change-driven sea level rise. The paper concludes that despite the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal’s ruling in Garden View, there is the possibility that this doctrine may still be successfully applied to various environmental calamities.

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