FortisBC sues insurers and designers of incinerator system after 2017 LNG plant fire

The excerpted article was written by  Business In Vancouver

FortisBC Energy Inc. is suing a group of insurers and the designers of an incinerator that failed after a fire at the Tilbury liquefied natural gas plant in Delta in 2017.

FortisBC filed two notices of civil claim in BC Supreme Court on November 22, one lawsuit naming AIG Insurance Co. of Canada, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Co. of Canada, Starr Insurance & Reinsurance Ltd., Temple Insurance Co., Zurich Insurance Co. Ltd., Ironshore Canada Ltd., XL Specialty Insurance Co., Catlin Canada Inc. and Lloyd’s Underwriters as defendants.

The other lawsuit, along with co-plaintiffs Bechtel Canada Co. and Bechtel Oil, Gas and Chemicals Inc., names Chart Energy & Chemicals Inc., Chart Energy Services Inc. and Thermo Design Engineering Ltd. as defendants.

In its case against the insurance companies, FortisBC alleges the firms wrongfully denied a $16 million claim under a builder’s risk policy for delay costs and other expenses. FortisBC claims that a fire in August 2017 damaged the gas plant during construction work on an expansion project, shutting down the facility until it could be repaired. As part of the shutdown process the plant’s thermal oxidizer, also called a thermal incinerator, was turned off.

But FortisBC claims the unit suffered a mechanical breakdown when the system was started up again in November 2017. The company claims the oxidizer’s breakdown “significantly delayed” operations at the Tilbury plant, causing “losses of revenue and profits.”

In the second case, FortisBC and contractor Bechtel claim Chart Energy and subcontractor Thermo Design were retained as designers for the incinerator, which failed due to alleged “design defects, oversights and deficiencies of the Incinerator.”

FortisBC and Bechtel seek unspecified damages for negligence, breach of contract and breach of duty of care. The allegations in both lawsuits have not been tested or proven in court, and none of the defendants had filed responses by press time.

— Business in Vancouver

Condo Owners Face Record-Breaking Insurance Premiums

The excerpted article was written by

At a time when severe weather is pretty much guaranteed, how high can insurance premiums rise before they become outright unaffordable? Chris Chopik, a realtor and expert on analyzing how climate change impacts real estate values, says every homeowner should be concerned.

“In the future, there is definitely an indication that heat waves in Toronto could be a problem,” says Chopik. “Let’s say we get twice as many humidex index warnings. Those are times when our power grid becomes susceptible to failure.” The blackout could mean people stuck in the upper floors of a high rise without power (or air-conditioning) – or access to an elevator. The situation can be life-threatening if you are a senior with mobility issues, turning your apartment into a veritable “solar oven”.

READ: Ask An Agent: How Does Climate Change Impact Real Estate In The GTA?

Climate change, in addition to rising construction costs, are forcing many insurers out of the market completely. While commercial insurance policies for condo buildings shouldn’t be confused with insurance policies for condo owners – literally every form of insurance is on the rise.

Take the case of British Columbia for example. In this province, condo buildings face premium hikes of between 50 per cent and 300 per cent. “Deductibles are going from the conventional $10,000 or $25,000 to $100,000, $250,000 or $500,000,” said Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Homeowners Association.

But Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says that unexpected weather events are the core problem.

READ: People Are Getting Caught In A Toronto Rental Scam, Here’s How You Can Avoid That

“There are more and more severe weather events that are resulting in more insured losses, things from wildfires to flooding,” he told HuffPostCanada, referencing the 2016 Fort McMurray fires as a “record-breaking event”. Add on to this the annual B.C. wildfires, the Ottawa regions massive floods and two tornadoes within the past two years and insurance companies are just generally overwhelmed with the numbers of payouts.

The payouts alone jumped between $1 billion and $2 billion in recent years, from around the $400-million range just five years ago, Karageorgos added.

As a result, many insurers simply refuse to cover condos – a trend that puts the condo resale market in jeopardy. The insurers who continue to cover condos can essentially justify the ridiculous premiums not just by referencing climate change, but by the high price of repairs. A shortage of skilled labourers plus the increased costs of materials are driving up those fees.

In one extreme example, a condo complex in Ottawa recently found its insurance premiums rising by 730 per cent because of wind and fire damage. And the increase has wreaked havoc on people’s personal lives.

READ: Ask An Agent: Should You Buy Or Sell First In A Real Estate Transaction?

“Some people are suicidal,” condo board president Marie Weerasooriya-Epps told CBC News. “Some people are headed for nervous breakdowns.”

While not every case is as extreme, rising insurance costs can take a bite out of property values. In general, the rule is that condo values are the inverse of monthly fees ― the higher the fee, the lower the resale value. Some condo buildings are on the brink of bankruptcy because of it.

“I think there will be a number of condos where those fees will become unsustainable and people will want to get out, and there’s a point at which it (all) becomes unsustainable,” said Randy Lippert, author of Condo Conquest.

Chopik says Toronto’s housing market might still be in denial about the whole thing: “I don’t think our industry knows what’s happening as far as how climate change impacts real estate…I think we are only a couple of lawsuits away from knowledge of climate change susceptibility.”

Canadian diagnosed with brain tumour in Thailand has travel insurance declined

The excerpted article was written by Sean Davidson CTV News Toronto

TORONTO — A Canadian man diagnosed with a massive brain tumour while travelling in Thailand is fighting to get home after his travel insurance was declined because he told doctors he had a headache while suffering from the flu over a month ago.

Kitchener resident Alex Witmer and his wife Jennifer Witmer, who had been living in Moncton for the last five years, quit their jobs earlier this year and went on a six-week trip to Thailand before planning to relocate to Toronto.

The couple was about a month into their trip when the 30-year-old began suffering from a severe migraine.

“He got a migraine that didn’t go away,” Jennifer Witmer told CTV News Toronto from a hospital in the southern Thailand island of Koh Samui on Monday. “It just got bad.”

Jennifer Witmer said they went to the hospital and were expecting to be given pain medication for the migraine. But after doctors completed scans they were told he had “massive tumour deep inside his brain” that was cancerous.

“My husband was extremely healthy, he was an international athlete. He has never had any issues.”

Alex Witmer was immediately given medication to reduce the pressure inside his brain that was causing the severe headache, but was told he needs to have brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as soon as possible.

The couple was then told the medication to reduce the pressure inside Alex’s head will only work for a few days and it would only be safe for him to fly home during that time.

“We have travel insurance, so we opened a claim and there was no issue we just got the go ahead yesterday. They were sending an air ambulance,” she said.

“A few hours later they called back and said they received his medical records and it showed he checked into an emergency room in Moncton a month ago and had symptoms of the flu. He reported a mild headache and because he said that they cancelled our claim based off having a pre-existing condition.”

“I don’t even remember him reporting a headache. I thought he just said he was vomiting, it didn’t even register to me. When the insurance company told me about the emergency room visit I said ‘Oh, well that was for the flu’ but they said ‘he reported a headache.'”

“They offered to still send an air ambulance service and quoted me $265,000 but that’s obviously not an option.”

“We are right now waiting for them to call and give the final word on our claim but they have been telling me it doesn’t look good.”

“The longer we wait, the higher the risk becomes.”

The couple is now searching for other safe options to get Alex home, including flying on a commercial flight accompanied by a medical team. If they can’t find a better option before the pressure in his head returns, he’ll be forced to have the surgery in Bangkok.

“It’s just cruel. Our neurosurgeon here said his flu symptoms are not pre-existing conditions. It’s insane they are flagging this.”

“Right now we are trying to find private companies that can transfer him home for less money,” she said . “We have amazing friends and family that are doing everything they can to get us home.”

She said her husband is awake but has been mostly sleeping because of the medication he is taking.

CTV News Toronto has reached out to the insurance company, Allianz, and is awaiting their response.

On their website, Allianz defines a pre-existing condition as “an injury, illness or medical condition that caused someone to seek treatment, presented symptoms, or required medication.”

“This may have taken place anytime within 120 days prior to and including the plan’s purchase date.”

“Note that you don’t even need an official medical diagnosis from a physician for something to be considered a pre-existing condition.”

A GoFundMe page has been organized to help raise funds for Alex Witmer’s care and has received more than $50,000 in one day.

 

Police bust alleged $1.6M car theft ring that exported high-end vehicles out of Canada

The excerpted article was written by Sean Davidson CTV News Toronto

TORONTO — Four people have been charged after police busted an alleged $1.6-million car theft ring that spanned across southern Ontario, exporting high-end stolen vehicles out of Canada.

Police in Hamilton, Ont. began their investigation, dubbed Project Seagull, in August 2019 after authorities became aware of the thefts.

The auto theft ring, which operated out of the city of Hamilton, targeted mainly rental cars, police allege.

Seven of the 39 vehicles stolen were found on a shipping container bound for Iraq, police said. Investigators believe other vehicles that have not yet been recovered have been shipped around the world.

On Dec. 5, police executed search warrants on six Hamilton businesses and three residences. While conducting their searches, officers seized 12 more stolen vehicles, numerous vehicle parts, cash, gold jewelry and other suspected stolen items.

Police said they also recovered fraudulent vehicle identification numbers, shipping documents and stolen Mexican passports.

How the alleged car theft ring operated

The majority of the auto thefts carried out by the accused targeted rental car companies, police allege.

Police said the suspects would use fraudulent documents to rent vehicles and never return them.

In some cases, the suspects would allegedly rent vehicles and clone the keys before returning them. Police said the suspects would then go back and steal the cars with the cloned keys.

“These four accused have a network going on,” Det. Sgt. Andrea Torrie said on Monday. “We have evidence they have probably been doing this for a couple of years.”

“We’re hoping we caused a major disruption in their business at this point.”

Who police charged

Three men and one woman have been charged in connection with the car thefts.

Yehia Al-Jbouri, 50, faces more than 50 charges in connection with the investigation, including possession of property obtained by crime and trafficking of property obtained by crime.

Zeyad Al-Khafaji, 45, has been charged with fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to commit.

Amer Al-Ogaili, 46, faces over 25 charges, including possession of property obtained by crime and trafficking in property obtained by crime.

Nahla Khayon, 46, is facing one charge of possession of property obtained by crime.

Three of the accused were released on their own recognizance and their first court appearance is Jan. 6, 2020. Khayon has been released on a Promise To Appear, with a future court date set for Jan. 21, 2020.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates auto thefts costs Canadians close to $1 billion yearly. In 2018, southern Ontario alone saw 9,500 thefts.

Hamilton police is asking anyone with information to contact Detective Sergeant Andrea Torrie at 905-546-2991 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

How to avoid a massive holiday health care bill when OHIP out-of-country coverage ends

The excerpted article was written by Solarina Ho CTV News

TORONTO — If you are an Ontario resident planning to travel outside of Canada over the holidays and will be out of the country after Jan. 1, make sure you have adequate travel health insurance coverage or risk dealing with a crippling medical bill should a medical emergency arise.

The Ontario government’s decision earlier this year to scrap its “inefficient” out-of-country health insurance coverage takes effect January 1, 2020. This means Ontarians who end up requiring major inpatient emergency care, for example, can no longer claim the $400-a-day maximum that OHIP currently provides and the $50-a-day maximum allowed for emergency outpatient services, such as an MRI or a CAT scan.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the decision in May following a public consultation, pointing to the inefficiency of the province spending $2.8 million administering $9 million claims each year.

The existing OHIP coverage is quite minimal given the cost of medical care abroad, said Robin Ingle, chief executive of travel insurance firm MSH Ingle International, especially in countries such as the United States, the most popular destination for Canadians.

“Today they cover about five per cent of your global health bill,” Ingle told CTV’s Your Morning, noting that the province used to cover some 80 per cent of a traveller’s out-of-country medical bill. The province was forced to change its coverage in 1991 due to the cost of the U.S. healthcare system.

A hospital stay in the U.S. could cost $5,000 a night, said Ingle. An MRI typically costs US$1,000 to US$5,000, an X-ray can range from US$150 to US$3,000.

Some locations might require a cash payment up front or refuse treatment altogether without proof you can pay or have adequate coverage.

“There was a recent example of a Canadian who was in Thailand, fell off a ladder, was stuck in the hospital because the family didn’t have travel insurance,” Ingle said Monday.

“The bill starts ramping up, and if you need an air evacuation, it’s not just the hospital bed cost. An air evacuation back to Canada from Thailand would be about US$150,000; from the Southern U.S., it would be about US$20,000.”

Ingle argued the new set-up will actually be better in the long run and expects other provinces will follow Ontario’s lead.

“As an insurer, for example, it’s a major hassle for us to actually get compensation back from the provincial government. So you might get a little bit of a rate increase now, but you will have it go down over time, because the processes will be simpler for the travel insurer,” he said.

Patients living with kidney failure will continue to have the same partial coverage for out-of-country dialysis care under a new program.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

You can ask about travel insurance through your credit card company, your employer’s insurance provider, a broker, or a travel agent, for example. Shop and compare insurance plans, and make sure you understand any requirements, conditions, and exclusions. Ask questions, such as:

• What does it cover? Does it include hospitalization while abroad?

• Ask specifically for the kind of products that you will need.

• What is the deductible, if any?

• How comprehensive is the plan? Are there coverage limitations or exclusions for certain destinations?

• Is the coverage renewable while you are out of the country?

• Who pays the bills upfront?

Regardless of your destination, the federal government recommends that your insurance covers the following:

• Medical evacuation to Canada or the nearest place with appropriate care, as well as the cost of a medical escort.

• Your pre-existing condition and have it in writing. Find out how your insurer defines “pre-existing condition” and what the limitations and restrictions are, and make sure the agreement covers a compassion clause and change of health clause.

• Preparation of your remains and repatriation to Canada in case of death.

CAA Saskatchewan passes along safety tips for the holidays

CAA Saskatchewan passes along safety tips for the holidays

News Release:

Whether you’re staying home or going away for the holiday season, CAA Saskatchewan wants residents to remember some safety tips.

Home for the Holidays Safety Tips: 

  • Ensure artificial Christmas trees are “fire resistant” and that live trees are always fresh and moist. Set up live and artificial trees away from fireplaces, heaters, and other heat sources.
  • Inspect holiday lights for broken, frayed or loose connections and throw out damaged sets. Turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house. Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into ground fault circuit interrupters.
  • Keep decorations away from lights, candles, heaters, fireplaces, etc. Place candles in non-combustible containers and never leave burning candles unattended.
  • As you buy your gifts, it’s a safe idea to keep packaging of high-priced items out of sight. Don’t give burglars a shopping list of what they might find in your home. Keep watch for any suspicious behaviour in your neighbourhood and report any questionable observations to the proper authorities.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children. Do not leave cooking or baking unattended.
  • Have the chimney and furnace professionally cleaned and inspected. Ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working.

Away from Home for the Holidays Safety Tips:

  • Suspend newspaper delivery. Arrange for someone to pick up your mail or contact the service to store it until your return.
  • Show discretion on social media, never letting folks know you are away from home.
  • Ensure all doors and windows are locked. For sliding doors, use specially designed bars or locks to prevent the door from being lifted out of its track.
  • Use timers for lights and possibly the TV or radio.
  • Turn off your water supply or have someone enter the home and check on things daily to ensure the pipes are not frozen. (This is a requirement of most insurance policies during the winter months).
  • Ask a neighbour to shovel snow around your driveway and sidewalks. Encourage neighbours to use your driveway so it looks like someone is coming and going on a regular basis.
  • Leave blinds or curtains in normal position – don’t close them completely.
  • Consider installing security bars on basement windows especially those shielded from view or in the back of the house.
  • Close and lock the garage door. Keep your vehicle locked, especially if it has an electric garage door opener.  If you notice signs of forced entry when you return home, do not go inside. Call the police from a neighbour’s home.
  • Make sure your home insurance is up to date and that it will provide coverage for your belongings. Advise your insurance broker of any changes required for major purchases or renovations.

Jetting away for the Holidays Safety Tips:

  • Check your booked flights frequently. Flight cancellations and delays are likely during peak periods. Also check your flight status prior to driving to the airport.
  • Know your airline’s cancellation policy. Some airlines may be waiving fees and issuing changes due to possible rebooking policies.
  • Monitor weather conditions – both for the departure and destination cities.
  • Don’t forget your travel insurance.
  • Make sure your passport is up to date and is valid for time required by the country or countries visited.  Make photocopies of your passport, credit cards, etc. and leave a copy at home with family or friends and keep a photocopy with you along with the originals stored in a separate location.
  • Pack any medications in their original containers and store in your carry-on bags.
  • Weigh your packed luggage to avoid additional airline charges.
  • Booked with CAA Travel? Stay connected with your local CAA Travel consultant for assistance.
  • Know your Air Passenger Rights. Learn more at caask.ca/airtravellers

Road Trip Holiday Safety Tips:

  • Check weather and road conditions before you travel. Allow extra time to reach your destination safely. Be prepared to reduce your speed and drive with caution.
  • Remember, slow to 60 km/h on Saskatchewan highways for working tow truck operators and emergency responders.
  • Check your vehicle’s battery. Extreme weather weakens the battery and may require charging.
  • Make sure the block heater cord is not frayed. Always plug in at minus 15 degrees Celsius.
  • Remove ice and snow from your vehicle for clear visibility.
  • Pack a roadside kit including extra outdoor clothing, footwear, a mobile phone with charger (for emergency use only or for CAA Roadside Assistance), non-perishable food, drinking water, a shovel, window ice scraper and brush, plus booster cables. Roadside assistance kits are available at all CAA Stores or online.
  • Keep a full tank or at minimum a half tank of fuel. This helps reduce moisture in the gas tank plus it adds weight to your vehicle.
  • Check the tire pressure regularly. The right pressure is important for traction and fuel efficiency. CAA recommends a good set of winter tires as the rubber compound in winter tires allows for better traction and control.

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