The mother of a drug dealer murdered as a result of his criminal activities cannot receive her son’s life insurance payout, the BC Court of Appeal has confirmed.
Kevin Valentyne, a mid-level drug dealer, was murdered by a rival gang in January 2013. His body was never found but his blood was found in a Greater Vancouver home where he had gone for a drug deal. He was later presumed dead.
In 2011, Canada Life Assurance Company, the case respondent, gave Valentyne a mortgage and mortgage life insurance policy. The policy said a life insurance benefit would not be paid out if “[his] death is a result of or while [he was] committing a criminal offence.”
His mother, Vanessa Valentyne was administrator of her son’s estate and made a claim for the payout of the policy.
A BC Supreme Court trial judge found Valentyne was a known drug dealer who entered the home of other drug dealers and disappeared.
The judge also found the criminal offence exclusion was engaged, as Valentyne died “as a result of his involvement in drug trafficking.”
The judge dismissed the claim.
On appeal, the mother claimed the first judge had interpreted the policy too widely and also took into account police hearsay evidence.
The appeal court agreed the clause only applied where Kevin Valentyne died as a result of committing a criminal offence or while committing a criminal offence and not as a result of general involvement in criminal activity.
However, the three appeal judges agreed in a Dec. 27 ruling, it the mother’s own concessions at trial made the conclusion her son was murdered while trafficking in drugs inescapable.
The appeal court said Vanessa Valentyne made concessions to the court that:
•Her son died “as a result of his involvement in the drug trade”;
•He was a drug dealer;
•He was “affiliated with” the United Nations gang;
•The house where he was last seen was a “known drug reload house”;
•He was probably killed by individuals “put up to [it]” by rival gang members;
•Her son’s murder was “tied up to [his] past crimes”; and
•Her son “died as a result of a criminal lifestyle.”
She did not concede that Mr. Valentyne died as a result of or while he was committing an offence at the time of his murder.
She told the court her son was also selling vitamin supplements at the time, and it was possible that he was conducting that business when he stopped at the house.
The appeal judges disagreed: “Mr. Valentyne died while committing the criminal offence of possession, trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking illicit drugs, all of which are indictable offences,” the ruling said.