B.C. couple awarded $350,000 due to false fraud accusation

When the case came to the top court, no wrath was spared when talking about the misconduct of the ICBC.
When the case came to the top court, no wrath was spared when talking about the misconduct of the ICBC. iStock.

If you think the little guy can’t win every once in a while, think again.

In a case where the court called the behaviour of the insurer “so high-handed, reprehensible and malicious that it offends this Court’s sense of decency,” the Supreme Court of British Columbia threw the book at the Insurance Company of British Columbia, by awarding a couple $350,000 in damages because the court determined ICBC falsely and maliciously accused them of insurance fraud.

In January 2000, the Arsenovski’s, a newly immigrated couple from the former Yugoslavia were involved in a car accident in Burnaby, B.C. After the accident, they made an insurance claim and their case was referred to the Special Investigations Unit of the ICBC.

One member of that unit, Special Investigator John Gould, recommended that criminal charges be laid against the couple, alleging they’d made false statements to the insurer, in addition to charges being laid against the wife for fraud.

The charges were stopped on the day the trial was supposed to have begun. After that event, the wife sued the ICBC, Gould and another investigator for having made wrong statements about her.

When the case came to the top court, no wrath was spared when talking about the misconduct of the ICBC and Gould.

Judge Susan A. Griffin looked at Gould’s claim that the statements made by the couple were allegedly false: “Here, the alleged making of a false statement to ICBC was an invention by Mr. Gould. . . The ICBC investigators did not have evidence that she [the wife] was not injured, just evidence of bystanders that she said she has no visible injuries. . .”

The judge also found that there was no “reasonable cause” for having believed a false statement was made and charging the couple for it, and that the Arsenovski’s fell victim to an abuse of power by the ICBC and Gould.

Griffin angrily concluded: “What happened to Mrs. Arsenovski was odious: a newcomer to a strange country, unable to communicate in the local language, she experienced the shock of seeing her husband hit by a car and she fell down too. Having experienced this upsetting event, still worried about her husband’s health, and having reported minor injuries to ICBC, she then experienced the wrath of ICBC and its special investigator, Mr. Gould.”

You could have probably heard a pin drop in the court after that statement.

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