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Don’t expect a bailout if you build in a flood zone

The excerpted article was written by  | Global News BC

As the winter snowpack melts and fears of spring flooding rise, Canada’s public safety minister Ralph Goodale has a “tough message” for municipalities, homeowners and businesses: build in a flood zone and you could be on your own.

“At some point, you’re going to have to say if people ignore the knowledge base and deliberately rebuild in danger zones, they are going to have to assume their own responsibility for the cost burden,” Goodale said Thursday.

Goodale made the comments in Ottawa when asked by Global News if there’s anything the federal government can do to stop municipalities from building in areas at high risk of flooding.

“After it’s happened once and then twice, and then three times, at some point the taxpayer’s patience runs out,” he said. “So there’s that clear message that has to be delivered.”

And according to Goodale, it’s municipalities that need to heed this message most.

“The right zoning decisions need to be taken,” Goodale said.

“That takes a good deal of local political courage because you’re often talking about some of the most attractive places in which to build,” he said.

“So that’s a bit of a tough message, but you can’t repeatedly go back to the taxpayer and say; oh, it happened again.”

‘Bold decisions’ to deal with flooding

While much of the funding for disaster relief and emergency management comes from the federal government, the decision to build in areas prone to flooding is “largely within the jurisdiction of provinces and municipalities,” Goodale said.

Whether to rebuild in these areas after flooding is also up to municipalities, and according to Goodale, this “very serious issue” is something communities across Canada will increasingly have to deal with as climate change takes hold and as the threat of flooding grows.

Goodale points to High River, Alta., which in June 2013 experienced devastating flooding with billions of dollars in damage, as an example of the type of decision making that’s needed to protect homes — and by extension, government finances — from the catastrophic effects caused by flooding.

According to Goodale, the community made the tough decision not to rebuild in the most high-risk areas after the 2013 floods.

“Other municipalities have not taken those bold decisions,” he said.

In addition to making “bold decisions,” Goodale said communities across Canada are benefiting from federal infrastructure spending targeted at flood relief. And while the Liberals have committed up to $2 billion to such programs, Goodale admits far more will be needed in the future.

Because, Goodale said, “the size of this problem is just very, very large.”

Billions in difficult or impossible-to-insure properties

So how big is the problem of homes and other properties built in areas prone to flooding?

According to a 2016 Parliamentary Budget Office report, flooding caused $12.5 billion in damages in Canada between 2005 and 2014 — by far the biggest cause of disaster relief spending.

The federal government’s share of paying for these disasters was nearly $3.5 billion.

But as the feds seek to get out of the business of flood relief, the notion that this level of funding will exist in the future is far from certain.

According to Craig Stewart, head of federal affairs with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the percentage of Canadian properties that are either difficult or impossible to insure because of risks from flooding is between 10 and 15 per cent. Stewart says the value of these properties is easily in the billions.

Like Goodale, he believes communities should be encouraged not to build or rebuild in areas known to be at high risk of flooding. He also thinks government bailouts for flood victims could soon be a thing of the past.

“Municipalities have been incented to build in flood planes in the past due to the tax revenue that such attractive locations afford,” Stewart said. “Now it’s all too clear what the consequences of those decisions are.”

“We believe municipalities should follow the lead of High River and revert high-risk land either to wetlands or to park areas, where it can still enjoy appropriate use, but where these people won’t be losing their possessions and homes when the next flood comes,” he said.

Stewart said Canada’s insurance industry has been working with federal and provincial governments — including conversations with Goodale’s office — on ways to provide insurance to high-risk properties. This could include a model similar to that in the United Kingdom where private insurers and governments work together to create a special class of government-backed insurance plans, he said.

Laval residents picking up the pieces after ice storm

The excerpted article was written by By  | Global News

Laval resident Josiane Lenain relied on her small basement fireplace to heat her whole house while she had no power. She said the heat emitted from it warmed her living space up to 15 degrees.

“It was chilly,” she said. “But we could tolerate it.”

What worries the retiree now, though, is the cost of cutting down damaged branches from her backyard tree.

“If a branch falls on a child or one of our neighbours, it could be terrible,” she said.

She’s waiting to hear back from her insurance company to see if it will help pay for it.

“I would prefer to get reimbursed, but I am not sure they will cover it,” she said.

As the clean up continues from the storm that paralyzed parts of Laval for days, many residents are now assessing the damage.

Liliana Antonacci lost the contents of her fridge and freezer, which she estimates was worth around $150. She spent a lot of money in restaurants while she had no power.

She says she has a $500 insurance deductible, so claiming anything isn’t worth it.

“After 35 years, you pay insurance, they don’t cover anything: the food, they don’t cover the trees, they don’t cover anything,” Antonacci said. “It’s useless.”

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says most damage from an ice storm is covered, but deductibles vary.

“Calling your insurer is the first step,” said Pierre Babinsky, of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “You have to consider the claim you will file. If it’s mostly the contents of your fridge and you have a large deductible on your policy, you may not feel it’s worth it.”

The City of Laval isn’t offering compensation to residents for issues related to this ice storm, but a spokesman says they are offering help to residents in other ways.

“There is a bunch of stuff we do offer,” said Louise-Philippe Dorais. “Community centres, our patrol cars are on site, police on site, fire department providing help.

“We are doing the best we can.”

Laval says it made a colossal effort to help citizens during the crisis. At the height of the storm, half of Laval’s 450,000 residents lost power.

As of Thursday afternoon, around 1,000 people in Laval still had no power.

Debilitating injuries described in mounting lawsuits against alleged van attacker

By Liam Casey

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Traumatic brain injuries, spinal fractures and internal bleeding are among the litany of ailments described in a mounting number of lawsuits against a man accused of killing 10 people and injuring 16 others in a van attack in Toronto last year.

Lawyers involved in the suits against Alek Minassian believe the cases, which the court is working to pull together in one large proceeding, will take years to come to a resolution.

On April 23, 2018, police allege Minassian drove a white Ryder rental van south along Yonge Street in the city’s north end, hopped the curb and deliberately mowed people down.

While Minassian’s criminal case slowly makes its way through the system – his trial on 10 first-degree murder charges and 16 attempted murder charges has been scheduled for February 2020 – the 26-year-old already faces four civil suits, with more expected.

The lawsuits, from the families of one person who died and three who were injured, are seeking millions of dollars from Minassian and Ryder Truck Rental Canada, alleging the devastating injuries and deaths on that day were due to an intentional act by Minassian and negligence on his and the rental company’s part.

The unproven civil suits will be fought in the trenches of insurance law.

“This is going to drag on for a long, long time,” said Gus Triantafillopoulos, who represents the family of Anne Marie D’Amico, a young woman who died that day and whose family filed a $1-million suit in January against Minassian and Ryder.

Triantafillopoulos said if the family receives any money through the civil proceedings it will all be donated to the Anne Marie D’Amico Foundation, which supports women who are victims of violence.

The first suit related to Minassian was filed in November 2018 by Amir Kiumarsi, a chemistry instructor with Ryerson University who is seeking $6 million dollars in damages.

He suffered a traumatic brain injury and several skull fractures, spinal fractures, traumatic internal injuries including a displaced kidney and numerous other injuries throughout his entire body, the claim says.

“These injuries have been accompanied by severe physical pain, suffering and a loss of enjoyment of life,” the claim alleges, noting that his future holds “numerous surgical and medical assessments, treatments and procedures.”

Since Kiumarsi filed his suit, the court is in the process of getting all the cases on one track, documents show.

Another suit was filed in mid-January by Amaresh Tesfamariam and her family, who are seeking $14 million. Tesfamariam has a complete spinal cord injury, multiple spinal fractures, rib fractures and a traumatic brain injury.

She cannot move her body below her neck, cannot breathe without a machine, suffers a total loss of independence and a “profound and permanent loss of her cognitive ability,” according to the claim.

Tesfamariam also has loss of short-term memory, depression, anxiety, a “drastic personality change” and cannot communicate properly with others, and cannot return to her work as a nurse, the claim alleges.

The latest suit was filed last week by Catherine Riddell and her family, alleging the “sustained serious and permanent” injuries the woman suffered are the result of negligence on the part of Minassian and the rental company.

Riddell lost consciousness, suffered a brain injury, hurt her head, neck, shoulders, arms, back, legs and arms. She fractured her spine, her ribs, pelvis, scapula and suffered internal injuries including a collapsed lung, the $3.55 million suit alleges.

She lives with headaches, memory loss, difficulty finding words, dizziness, back and neck pain, loss of mobility, nausea, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia and depression, her claim alleges, noting that she now faces a life filled with therapy, rehabilitation and medical treatment.

“Her enjoyment of life has been permanently lessened and she has been forced to forego numerous activities in which she formerly participated,” the claim reads.

Minassian does not yet have legal representation in the civil matters and has not responded to the claims, according to the documents. His criminal lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawyers for Ryder, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment, detailed the expected complexities in the litigation in an affadavit filed with the court.

It notes that notice has been given for 12 claims and more are expected. There will be numerous parties in the case from families of the dead to the injured and the various defendants. There will be examinations for all plaintiffs, and testimony would be expected from numerous medical experts.

“It would be safe to assume this matter will require a lengthy trial,” said the affidavit.

Kiumarsi’s lawyer, Darcy Merkur, said there will be a slew of arguments brought forward.

“One interesting question is this: is every different person hurt considered a separate accident?” Merkur said. “It’s a legal question, but also a philosophical one.”

The answer to that question will be important to the issue of potential payments, he explained.

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)

$175,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Psychological Injuries

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic psychological injuries sustained in a collision.

In the recent case (Anssari v. Alborzpour) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2014 collision.  She sustained various psychological injuries including severe depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms.  These continued to the time of trial and were likely to continue in the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $175,000 Madam Justice Fleming provided the following reasons:

[95]         In any event, the fact and opinion evidence overwhelmingly establishes that Mrs. Anssari developed severe depression, severe anxiety and symptoms of PTSD due to the accident. It is clear her psychological injuries have resulted in the ongoing and severe symptoms she, her children and most of the expert witnesses described in their evidence. I find therefore the accident caused the following:

–       very low mood and intense feelings of anxiety worsened or triggered by a number of circumstances such as driving, noise, and sirens;

–       nightmares for about one year after the accident;

–       very low energy and very poor motivation;

–       agitation, irritation and anger, as well as intense sadness and emotional numbness;

–       a profound sense of hopelessness and if not a wish to die, a questioning of her ongoing existence;

–       irrational anger toward Mr. Alborzpour for causing the accident that she wants to let go of but cannot;

–       overwhelming feelings of guilt over the impact of her condition on her family;

–       chronic insomnia that prevents her from falling asleep until near dawn and staying asleep for more than a series a short periods ending in the late morning;

–       significant physical pain in her neck shoulders and back, severe headaches and numbness along with other altered sensations in her right arm for approximately two years after the accident; and

–       some ongoing pain in her neck, shoulders and back, headaches and intermittent numbness in her right arm.

[96]         Mrs. Anssari’s severe psychological symptoms have persisted despite treatment including anti-depressant medications, psychological treatment in 2014 and 2017, medication and treatment for her physical symptoms, ongoing support from her family doctor, and some involvement with a treating psychiatrist since early 2018….

[108]     The evidence makes it clear that Mrs. Anssari’s psychological injuries have had a devastating impact on every aspect of her life. Before the accident she was a vibrant, happy, healthy person with a loving marriage and extremely close, positive relationships with both children. A full-time homemaker and a highly involved parent, Mrs. Anssari also enjoyed socializing with friends, going out and travelling with her husband and children, and being physically active. She dreamed of being a grandmother and caring for her grandchildren. Her future was bright.

[109]     Since the accident, her emotional suffering, intense anxiety, and severely disrupted sleep, along with an almost complete loss of motivation, next to no energy and a deep sense of hopelessness have essentially taken all of that away. For the first year she was also plagued by nightmares of the accident. She still experiences flashbacks. I have accepted her psychological injuries exacerbated her physical pain which, although much better, has not resolved.

[110]     For the most part Mrs. Anssari spends her days and nights on the living room couch, interacting very little with the world around her, including her family. Her inability to take part in or find any joy in Sahar’s wedding preparations and the wedding itself would have been unimaginable before the accident. The same is true of her response to Rosha. Rather than fulfilling her dream of being an involved grandmother and caring for her grandchildren, she engages very little with Rosha during their almost daily weekday visits which in turn causes her more suffering. Similarly, Mrs. Anssari remains unable to let go of the anger she has felt toward Mr. Alborzpour since the accident. In response, as Mrs. Anssari put it, he has lost patience with her. The evidence of Saeed and Sahar suggests the marriage is beyond repair, a terrible loss for Mrs. Anssari given its strength before the accident and how firmly rooted her identity has been in her role as a wife and mother.

[111]     The effect of Mrs. Anssari’s injuries on her day-to-day functioning is as profound as the impairment of her relationships. I have accepted that her psychological injuries prevent her from engaging in any meaningful housework or cooking. They also significantly interfere with her ability to drive safely, a blow to her independence. She even struggles to engage in basic self-care.

[112]     Unhappy with what has become of her, Mrs. Anssari is, as I have said, guilt ridden about the effect of her condition on her family. Fortunately she wants to get better and is willing to undergo further treatment, despite the ineffectiveness of medication and psychological interventions thus far. Although a complete recovery is not a realistic possibility, a new medication regime and, failing that, ECT may very well result in substantial improvement over time.

[113]      Similar cases are of some assistance in assessing an award for non-pecuniary damages. No other case however will ever involve the exact same circumstances and each plaintiff is unique: Hans v. Volvo Truck North America Inc., 2016 BCSC 1155, at para. 525. I have considered the cases relied upon by the parties. The most similar is Hans where $265,000 was awarded in non-pecuniary damages seven years after the accident. The plaintiff’s psychological injuries, significant PTSD and major depressive disorder, were however even more serious than Mrs. Anssari’s and there was little prospect his symptoms would improve. He suffered from suicidal ideation, had attempted suicide three times, and been hospitalized for extended periods. The trial judge accepted the plaintiff would remain at risk of death by suicide. Given his PTSD, the plaintiff was also found to be at increased risk of developing another psychiatric disorder.

[114]     In all of the circumstances and having considered the factors enumerated in Stapley, I conclude $175,000 is an appropriate award for Mrs. Anssari’s pain and suffering. The award includes compensation for the non-pecuniary loss associated with her intended role as a caregiver to her grandchildren and her future loss of housekeeping capacity, both of which are discussed below but also takes into account the chance that with the medication regime or failing that ECT, her psychological condition will improve substantially, balanced against the risk of further deterioration.

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