A few weeks ago, a Canadian judge, Justice Acton of the Queens Bench of Saskatchewan, awarded Luciano Branco $5,000,000. The $4.5 million awarded for punitive and aggravated damages was the largest ever handed out in a Canadian court.

CBC Radio’s “The Current” featured a story on Mr. Branco’s journey. Click “Insurance Tactics: Deny, Delay, Defend and Pay Up?” to listen.

Luciano Branco was injured while working in a mine in Kyrgyzstan. As a result of his injury he was eventually rendered disabled. Unfortunately, Mr. Branco’s long-term disability insurer refused to pay the benefits required to replace his income. The
insurer’s refusal to pay was especially hard to understand in light of the fact that the claims department had approved Mr. Branco for payment at a relatively early stage. However, for some unknown reason, the insurers’ in house legal department continued to deny payment of the claim. Following the trial Justice Acton awarded a total of $4,500,000 in punitive and aggravated damages. These damages were meant to compensate Mr. Branco for the additional suffering that had been caused by the insurer’s unreasonable actions.

In his decision, Justice Acton called the companies “calculated,” “abhorrent,” and “reprehensible.” He said they repeatedly, and in his words “maliciously” tried to thwart Mr. Branco’s claim. And Justice Acton didn’t stop there. He said he hoped the ruling would “gain the attention of the insurance industry” … and added “the industry must recognize the destruction and devastation that their actions cause.” Justice Acton was sending a message to the entire insurance community that “a pattern of abuse of an individual suffering from financial and emotional vulnerability” would not be tolerated by the courts.