The curious case of Jarl vs. Jarl

While riding their motorcycle in 2005, the couple struck a deer

Kari and Terry Jarl of Nanaimo, B.C., are happily married with three kids. But this week they squared off in court. At issue: a lawsuit over an August 2005 motorcycle accident. The couple was out for a ride when their bike collided with a deer—Terry says he reacted as best as he could, but Kari alleges he could have done more. “I’m not trying to blame him,” she says, “but he was the driver, he could have avoided it.”

Suing her husband wasn’t the first thing on Kari’s mind after the accident—she was thrown off the bike, and both she and Terry had to take time off work to recover from their injuries. Kari has been unable to return to her job as a care aid in a facility for the elderly, which has created some financial struggles for the family.

But when the couple tried to make a claim on their insurance policy with ICBC (the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, a provincial Crown insurer), Kari says they were told the collision had been unavoidable, that “you can’t sue a deer,” and no compensation would be forthcoming. This was no surprise to Terry—he works for ICBC as a driver examiner, and believes the corporation often plays hardball with employees who file claims: “They think you know the system,” he says. ICBC spokesperson Mark Jan Vrem says that’s not the case: “There’s no additional scrutiny because you’re an ICBC employee. Everyone’s treated the same.”

So Kari consulted with a lawyer, who suggested that she proceed with a lawsuit to prove Terry’s liability—and, hence, collect the insurance payout. On Monday, a judge ruled that the lawsuit should continue to a full trial. But the Jarls say they can’t afford to continue, and are considering dropping the claim.

This isn’t the first time an otherwise satisfied couple has gone head-to-head in court—Jan Vrem says it’s not unusual for family members to sue each other to prove liability. Though the Jarls acknowledge all of this has created some tension in their relationship, “it’s just something we had to do,” says Terry. “It’s not because she doesn’t like me.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.