Court rules Ontario cannot withhold vehicle permits for unpaid tolls

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 1/7/2014

A Canadian trucker who declared bankruptcy because of financial debts that included unpaid tolls on a Toronto toll road will be allowed to get his vehicle permit after all, the Court of Appeal for Ontario has ruled.

The operator of the 407 Express Toll Route claimed that trucker Matthew David Moore had racked up nearly $35,000 in tolls, penalties, late fees and interest up to and during 2005 and 2006.

Ontario law allows the toll operator to submit the names of those who owe tolls and penalties to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, who can then withhold vehicle permits until the debts are paid.

Moore, who owned two trucks, was not allowed to renew his vehicle permits, lost his business, and filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in November 2007.

Four years later, in June 2011, Moore and a trust designated to dispose of property to pay off debts achieved an “absolute discharge” from creditors from the provincial bankruptcy courts. The intent of the absolute discharge was to give Moore a “fresh start,” according to the judge.

The 407 ETR went before the Registrar of Bankruptcy and demanded that Moore’s tolls and penalties be separated from his other debts and that the province continue to withhold Moore’s vehicle permits.

The Registrar of Bankruptcy ruled in Moore’s favor in September 2011, releasing the trucker from toll-related charges. Throughout the proceedings, the 407 ETR continued to compound late fees, other penalties and interest, which the company said reached $88,767.

The 407 ETR appealed to a motions judge, who overturned the Registrar of Bankruptcy’s decision. Then the Ontario Superintendent of Bankruptcy got involved and overruled the motions judge.

Finally, on Dec. 19, 2013, Justice Sarah E. Pepall of the Court of Appeal for Ontario issued a ruling that sided with Moore and the Registrar of Bankruptcy in releasing the trucker from his debts – including the toll charges, penalties and interest.

Pepall stated that she reached her decision based on the initial “absolute discharge” that Moore obtained from the lower courts.

“The discharge of Moore dated June 21, 2011, released him from all claims provable in bankruptcy, including the debt of the 407 ETR as at November 10, 2007,” Justice Pepall wrote.

“The Ministry of Transportation is hereby directed to issue license plates to Moore upon payment of the usual licensing fees.”

As part of the ruling, Pepall ordered the 407 ETR to pay $36,000 in indemnity costs to the Superintendant of Bankruptcy.

Copyright © OOIDA