Owner of deliberately burned Manitoba store ordered to repay

WINNIPEG _ A judge has ruled a fire that destroyed a hardware store in the western Manitoba town of Neepawa more than four years ago was deliberately set.

The decision follows a lawsuit filed by the owner of the Home Hardware outlet against his insurance company for not providing coverage.

The owner, Patrick Guilbert of Guilbert Enterprises, has been ordered to repay Economical Insurance tens of thousands of dollars.

The judge’s ruling states that the insurer based in Waterloo, Ont., denied a claim for $3 million.

Manitoba’s Office of the Fire Commissioner said the February 2015 blaze started in the attic, but it could not determine the exact cause.

The ruling has no effect on a separate police investigation, now closed, in which the RCMP did not lay charges.

The fire destroyed four apartments above the store but no one was injured.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice David Kroft wrote in his March 21 ruling that “Taking all the evidence into account … Economical has proved, on a balance of probabilities, Guilbert started the fire _ a clear breach of the plaintiff’s contractual and statutory obligations to Economical.”

Kroft accepted evidence given by engineer Norbert Karl Becker, who was called by Economical to testify about the cause and origin of the fire. The judge noted that Becker found that the timing, area of origin and rapid spread of the fire were consistent with an incendiary blaze.

Kroft said Guilbert conceded financial motive at trial because the business was failing.

He also ruled there was opportunity for Guilbert to start the fire, based on witness testimony from former employees.

“On the day of the fire, Guilbert removed personal items from the building. Guilbert was alone in the building from 6:05 p.m. to 6:09 p.m.,” he wrote.

Kroft allowed a counterclaim filed by Economical and ordered Guilbert to pay the insurance company nearly $650,000. The money covers the amount Economical paid under the policy to two credit unions for mortgages taken out by Guilbert Enterprises and the cleanup costs associated with the fire.

His decision notes a trial judge is not precluded from reaching a different conclusion than investigators about the cause of a fire.

Guilbert has not responded to a CTV News request for comment, while his lawyer said it would be inappropriate to comment on the ruling. (CTV Winnipeg)

Zurich Canada names new Head of Liability

Marco Royer has been named Head of Liability for Zurich Canada.

Royer will be a member of the Zurich Canada Executive Team and will report to Zurich Canada CEO Saad Mered. His first day at Zurich will be July 1.

Royer will be responsible for leading the market-facing underwriting teams in Zurich Canada’s liability portfolio, including casualty, energy casualty, construction liability, environmental liability and commercial automobile.

Royer will also oversee Zurich Canada’s Alternate Risk Transfer team and will be responsible for the development and growth of the healthcare and public sector industry verticals.

He will also work closely with other Zurich Canada executives to coordinate effective execution of portfolio management, distribution management, risk services and claims management.

Royer comes to Zurich with more than 30 years of experience in the European and Canadian insurance marketplaces. He has a strong technical casualty underwriting background and has held ascending levels of leadership responsibilities, including 18 years at Gen Re, where he led teams in ParisLondon and Montreal. Following Gen Re, he joined Aon Benfield as vice president and casualty specialist, then Quebec regional manager and head of Facultative Operations, reporting directly to the CEO.

In this most recent position, Royer was the head of the Canadian-London team, responsible for all Canadian reinsurance placement in the London market.

“We are very excited to have a leader of Marco’s caliber and deep experience and relationships in the Canadian market joining us,” Mered said. “With his addition to Zurich Canada, we continue to build a diverse, experienced and proven senior leadership team that will enable the transformation and repositioning of Zurich’s presence in Canada.”

Marco has certified as a Chartered Financial Analyst and is a member of London UK CFA Society. He also holds a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from McGill University in Montreal. He is also a board member of La Fondation OLO in Montreal whose mission is to help low-income families bring healthy babies into the world and teach them healthy eating habits early on.

SOURCE Zurich North America

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Arthur J. Gallagher Expands in Canada With Keyser Benefits Corp.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. AJG has acquired Keyser Benefits Corp. that will not only improve its employee benefits consulting and brokerage operations, but also strengthen its Canadian footprint. However, financial details of the transaction have been kept under wraps.

Over the past 45 years, Calgary, Alberta-based Keyser Benefits has been operating as a full-service benefits brokerage firm, providing life, disability, health and dental, critical illness, retirement and other services. The company caters to small to mid-sized businesses and individuals throughout Western Canada. The primary objective is to offer benefits that will enable the respective client businesses to enhance performance, develop loyalty and provide a better incentive to quality employees to join and stay on with the businesses. Post completion of the buyout, Keyser Benefits will be shifting to the acquirer’s benefits office in Calgary.

With this acquisition, Arthur J. Gallagher is likely to gain from Keyser Benefits’ client-focused, family-oriented and ethically strong business model. Apart from boosting the insurance broker’s employee benefits consulting and brokerage operations, the buyout is expected to expand its growing global team. Moreover, the accretion of Keyser Benefits’ operations will complement and fortify the acquirer’s already existing geographic footprint.

With respect to strengthening the Canadian footprint, Arthur J. Gallagher acquired broker Jones Brown Inc. and its subsidiaries on Jan 8, 2019. The buyout is likely to bring in substantial value addition to its business and clients across Canada.

Given the insurance industry’s all-time high capital level, insurers are aggressively pursuing mergers and acquisitions to ramp up growth, expand geographies, enhance capabilities and diversify operations. Moreover, its inorganic pipeline remains robust with about $130 million of annualized revenues in 2019. The company flaunts an impressive growth profile, driven by organic sales plus a slew of merger and acquisition (M&A) activities. It remains upbeat about its ability to tow in integration partners within its typical small tuck-in size at justifiable prices.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (NYSE:AJG), a global insurance brokerage, risk management and consulting services firm, is headquartered in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The company has operations in 35 countries and offers client service capabilities in more than 150 countries around the world through a network of correspondent brokers and consultants.

 

Legally growing pot in Canada could void your home insurance

Digital Journal | Excerpted article was written By KAREN GRAHAM

Vancouver – A recent court ruling in British Columbia, Canada that focused on the “material change” clause in homeowners insurance policies could have the potential to shed a spotlight on the incompatibility of such a position with new federal cannabis laws.

According to the Globe and Mail, The decision of Vancouver Supreme Court Justice Margot Fleming in February 2019 could very well have far-reaching effects for all homeowners in Canada who grow even a single marijuana plant inside their home.

Justice Fleming ruled in favor of Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company after hearing evidence from the insurance company’s underwriting expert, Liz Strocel, retained by Wawanesa, on the risks of growing cannabis. Based on her testimony, a cannabis grow operation on a homeowner’s property constitutes a “material change” sufficient enough to void the insurance policy.

Strocel testified the company “did not and does not insure any property with a marijuana grow operation, whether or not it is legal, because of the inherent risk. She identified the risk as including drywall being susceptible to mold from the humidity, fire (for a number of reasons), the risk of robbery or a break in, and additional liability issues. She also testified that Wawanesa would void a homeowner policy if it learned the insured had a grow operation and refund the premiums.”

Surprisingly, the underwriting expert also testified that she was “not aware of any general insurer in Canada that would take on the risk of any cannabis grow operation, or even the presence of a single marijuana plant.” This one line of testimony was emphasized in the judge’s ruling.

The Schellenberg case

The Schellenbergs had a fire in an outbuilding on their property in Chilliwack, British Columbia in 2014. The outbuilding was constructed in 2012, with Mr. Schellenberg notifying the insurance company he wanted the building added to his homeowner’s policy. He apparently failed to mention he also had a legal cannabis grow license and the building in question housed the operation.

The failure of the Schellenbergs to tell their insurance company the building contained 310 marijuana plants was used by Wawanesa to void the homeowner’s policy. Wawanesa claimed that the marijuana grow constituted a “material change”—a change to the property that would have led to either higher premiums or denial of coverage if it had been reported.

The insurance company’s decision to void the insurance policy led to the Schellenberg’s suing the company, claiming it did not have grounds to void the policy. With the court ruling in favor of the insurance company, it remains to be seen if we may hear of more court cases involving homeowner insurance claims.

It might be a good idea if homeowners growing marijuana on their property, even just one plant, check with their insurance companies – just to be sure of their coverage.

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