The ongoing saga of May Ocean’s marathon legal battle with one of Canada’s largest insurance companies took another turn this week. A Nova Scotia judge ruled on Tuesday that Patricia Mitchell, the lawyer for Economical Mutual Insurance would not have to testify when the trial begins in September.
Ocean had subpoenaed Mitchell to give evidence about the company’s handling of her claims arising from a car accident in December 2000 near Whites Lake, about 25 kilometres south of Halifax. Supreme Court judge Deborah Smith ruled she was not satisfied that Mitchell’s testimony would be relevant or necessary adding that Ocean herself could testify about the company’s treatment of her after the accident.
Tuesday’s ruling was the latest skirmish in a case that was the subject of a Coast cover story in November. Ocean, a 52-year-old award-winning artist and designer who moulds and casts pewter products, is suing Economical for $700,000 in damages, a written acknowledgment she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a formal apology.
Who was to blame for the crash is one of many issues in dispute. Ocean is still angry that Economical blamed her for the collision even after a professional investigator it had hired concluded that the other driver was at fault. When Economical refused to renew her insurance policy, Ocean’s broker warned her that no other company would cover her unless Economical wrote a letter clearing her of blame. Several months later Ocean threatened to stage a hunger strike outside Economical’s offices in Bedford. The company then issued a letter clearing her of blame, but Economical’s statement of defence filed with the courts still contends that Ocean was at fault.
Ocean, who represents herself in court, says she’s determined to expose what she sees as a monopoly within an insurance system the government is supposed to be regulating. In one of many statements she has filed with the courts, Ocean says: “It is my claim that vehicle insurance companies and certain other government organizations form a conglomeration of joint activities that serve to uphold a corrupt system.”