Insurer who honours policy may still breach the duty of good faith.

On February 25, 2013, the Ontario Court of Appeal substantially allowed an appeal from a lower court decision striking out numerous claims in a proposed class action relating to the sale and administration of four types of life insurance policies. In Kang v. Sun Life, 2013 ONCA 118, the Court of Appeal held that plaintiffs’ claims for breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing and for deceit and fraud were not mere reiterations of the plaintiffs’ claim for negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation and should be allowed to stand. Their claim for breach of contract was based on...

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Employer ordered to pay $100,000 punitive damages.

On January 31, 2013, the British Columbia Court awarded an employee $100,000.00 in punitive damages as a result of the defendant employer’s conduct, which was found to be malicious and vindictive, in breach of its obligations of good faith and fair dealing in the manner in which the employee was terminated. The employer’s egregious conduct continued “unbroken” throughout the legal proceeding. The Court awarded punitive damages against the employer to punish, denounce, and deter future actions, which included: 1. The employer refused to pay the employee’s outstanding wages unless a release...

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Insurer pays $100,000 punitive damages for alleging fraud.

On June 22, 2012, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice awarded $100,000 in punitive damages against an insurer for alleging fraud against its insured in respect of a fire loss in circumstances which the Court described as a “high-stakes litigation strategy”. Brandiferri v. Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Co. involved a fire loss at the insureds’ home. The garage and its contents were destroyed and smoke penetrated the house. In one action the insureds claimed that Strone Construction was liable for the deficient remedial work and in another action the insureds claimed that their...

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$573,000 punitive damages for BC employee.

In early 2012, a jury in Prince George, B.C. awarded a plaintiff approximately $809,000 in damages over a wrongful dismissal. Included in that amount is the largest punitive damages award in an employment law case in Canadian history. Larry Higginson worked at a sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C., for 34 years until October 2009, when he was fired without severance pay. Hampton Lumber Mills Inc., based in Portland, Ore., had acquired the sawmill from Babine Forest Products Inc. in November 2006. Higginson sued for wrongful dismissal, claiming he was terminated as an attempt to avoid paying...

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$75,000 punitive damages for coverage denial.

In McDonald v. ICBC, 2012 BCSC 283,  the plaintiff was involved in a 2007 collision. She was at fault for the crash. She consumed two to three glasses of wine prior to operating a vehicle. As she was driving she “turned the wrong way into an oncoming van” causing a collision and injuries to the other motorist. The plaintiff was issued a 24 hour roadside suspension and charged criminally with dangerous driving and alcohol related offences. Eventually the criminal charges were dropped and the plaintiff plead guilty to careless driving pursuant to section 144 of BC’s Motor Vehicle Act. The...

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Claims administrator may owe a duty of good faith.

The New Brunswick Court of Queen’s bench held that where an insurer acts as a claims administration service only but makes decisions regarding the adjudication of claims, computation and issuance of benefits it owes a duty to the insured to act in good faith as it was adjudicating claims and benefits. As such, the traditional tort of intentional procurement of breach of contract is broad enough to capture bad faith actions by an adjuster that bring about the rejection of a meritorious claim for insurance benefits. In LeBlanc v. Atlantic Blue Cross Care, [2011] N.B.J. No. 446 (December...

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