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Insurer Must Pay Fire Damages to Homeowner Despite Evidence of Arson

Apostolidis v. Canadian Northern Shield Insurance Co., 2018 BCSC 481

The 78-year-old widower Plaintiff owned a large home in Kelowna that he insured with Canadian Northern Shield Insurance (hereafter “CNS”). The Plaintiff was away overnight at a Casino when the house fire occurred. The plaintiff swore a proof of loss in respect of the damage to the house, claiming $425,000. CNS denied the Plaintiff’s claim. CNS alleged the Plaintiff, or someone at the Plaintiff’s discretion, deliberately set the fire. The Plaintiff brought an action against CNS for breach of contract.

At trial, CNS argued the evidence supported their theory. The fire department concluded an arsonist set the fire using an accelerant. A neighbor saw a silver Chrysler 300 speed away from the house at the time of the fire. The arsonist spray-painted “SATAN IS KING”, “BURN IN H#*%” and “666” on the property. The Plaintiff had considerable debt and had listed the home for sale. Investigators found no signs of forced entry into the home. Perhaps most suspicious, the Plaintiff had the home’s alarm system deactivated the day before the fire.

Justice Meiklem disagreed with CNS and ruled in favour of the Plaintiff. No evidence connected the Plaintiff to anyone who might be the arsonist. Justice Meiklem was not convinced the insurance payment would benefit the Plaintiff financially. The house had recently almost sold for $735,000, significantly more than the potential insurance payment. Although investigators found no signs of forced entry to the home, there was forced entry to the backyard fence. Finally, the alarm technician testified he had recommended the Plaintiff deactivate the alarm. The technician attended the house the day before the fire. When the technician could not fix a problem with the alarm panel, he suggested the Plaintiff deactivate the alarm until the technician could install a new panel. Justice Meiklem found it improbable the 78-year-old Plaintiff duped the trained technician into recommending deactivating the alarm.

You can read Apostolidis v. Canadian Northern Shield Insurance Co., 2018 BCSC 481, in its entirety here.

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