"Repeat offender" - Wawanesa Insurance found liable for $100,000 in punitive damages

TORONTO, June 24, 2012 /CNW/ - On June 22, 2012 Mr. Justice Lauwers of the Superior Court of Justice in Oshawa, ON handed down his decision in Brandiferri v Wawanesa Insurance Company and awarded the plaintiffs $100,000 in punitive damages in addition to most of the damages they sought.  The trial lasted four weeks.

In the case, an elderly couple of limited means who suffered fire and significant smoke damage to their home sought assistance from their own insurer to cover their losses under their insurance policy.  However, after paying some amounts, Wawanesa refused to pay any further despite leaving the Brandiferris with an uninhabitable home and smoke damaged contents.  Even worse, the insurer launched a $600,000 claim against the homeowners claiming they had acted fraudulently in making their claim.

Alfred M. Kwinter and Jason D. Singer of Singer, Kwinter acted for the plaintiff homeowners in a case that has lasted over 11 years.

The Court not only awarded compensation for damages as a result of a fire to the plaintiff's home, it also found that Wawanesa should pay punitive damages for its treatment of its own insured.

The Court agreed with Singer, Kwinter's descriptor that Wawanesa was a 'repeat offender' as it had previously been held liable for punitive damages in treating its insured improperly.  Justice Lauwers used this phrase in his reasons for ordering $100,000 in punitive damages.

"The insurer took a 'scorched earth' approach" according to Jason Singer. "They made the plaintiffs fight every step of the way for over a decade" he added.

"This is a classic David and Goliath story" said Kwinter.  He went on, "Our firm recognized that Mr. and Mrs. Brandiferri were being bullied by a big insurance company and that was not right.  We took on this case because of our commitment to justice.  We were willing to go the extra mile to make sure justice was served."

Singer added, "We are very pleased that our clients were awarded almost everything they sought.  An insurer has an obligation to treat its insured fairly and ensure they are returned to their home after a fire loss.  They cannot abandon them in their time of need.  The Court found that the insurer has acted in a reprehensible and high handed manner, by alleging fraud and launching a counter-claim."

"Punitive damage awards against insurers are very rare yet this is the third case where Singer, Kwinter has won an award for punitive damages and the second case against Wawanesa" said Kwinter.  "The first was in 2003 in another property damages case against this same insurer," he added.  Thus the descriptor "repeat offender" used by Singer, Kwinter in their arguments and adopted in the Judgment by Mr. Justice Lauwers.

The case will be posted on the Superior Court of Justice website in the next few days.  A more detailed commentary on this case will also be available in early July, 2012.

SOURCE Singer, Kwinter

For further information:

For interviews: Alfred M. Kwinter 416 230 7459 and Jason D. Singer 416 970 8644 www.singerkwinter.com

For background and photographs: Brian Cope 647 225 2899, Korverge Inc. brian.cope@korverge.com

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