04 Nov Acheson Law Scores Aggravated and Punitive Damages From Desjardins in Long-Term Disability Case

Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota achieved a ground breaking result in Greig v. Desjardins Financial Security Life Assurance Company, 2019 BCSC 1758.  This action concerned Desjardin’s wrongful termination of the Plaintiff’s long-term disability (“LTD”) benefits.

LTD insurance provides wage-replacement benefits to persons who become disabled due to an accident or illness, so that they can support themselves while unable to work. Usually this amounts to around 60-70% of what the person would have earned at work.

In this case, the LTD insurance company, Desjardins, terminated the Plaintiff’s LTD benefits in April 2015. Desjardins refused to reinstate LTD even when provided with extensive medical documentation of his disability. Desjardins ignored that evidence.

The Plaintiff lived with no income for seventeen months. He and his wife went bankrupt, lost their long-time family home to foreclosure, and for a time were homeless, living together in a van. During this period the Plaintiff’s wife continued to work full-time.

Not only did Desjardins cut the Plaintiff off from his income during this period, it refused to pay for medical treatments that had been recommended for his recovery. Later, it would hold this against him, telling the Plaintiff that his failure to get more treatment justified the cut-off of his LTD benefits.

The Plaintiff had no choice but to pursue a lawsuit against Desjardins. The insurance company quickly changed its tune, reinstating the Plaintiff’s LTD benefits in September 2016. It also paid for the LTD benefits owing to the Plaintiff for the entire cut-off period, from April 2015 onward. Desjardins admitted at that time that the Plaintiff had been disabled throughout and so was entitled to his wage-replacement benefits.

However, the damage had been done. The Plaintiff pressed on with claims for the mental distress he suffered and for damages to punish Desjardins for its conduct. After a hard-fought trial, the judge found that Desjardins acted in a manner that was high-handed, arbitrary, and worthy of rebuke in dealing with the Plaintiff’s LTD benefits claims. She awarded the Plaintiff $250,000 in aggravated and punitive damages, recognizing that Desjardins had mistreated the financially-vulnerable Plaintiff.