From requiring repeated, unnecessary medical notes to telling an injured worker to travel to Canada for assessment, two international insurance agencies face paying severe damages for their callous treatment of an employee.
Insurance firms AIG and Zurich have been ordered to pay $4.95 million to Luciano Branco, a welder employed by a subsidiary of Saskatchewan mining company Cameco.
Branco, a Canadian citizen working in Kyrgyzstan at the time, was injured in 1999 when a heavy steel plate fell on his foot, according to court reports. He continued working, and the injury was aggravated a few weeks later. After failing to get treatment locally, he saw a company doctor for assessment in June 2000. The injury was formally reported to the company, and found to be work-related, so the insurance companies became involved.
What followed was described as “protracted and reprehensible” by the judge as both companies delayed any payment. Despite multiple medical reports showing he was permanently disabled, AIG required him to prove he was going through rehabilitation and even made him return to Canada from Portugal, where he was living at the time, to undergo local tests. When Canadian doctors confirmed he was permanently disabled the company used further delaying tactics to avoid payment.
"This court cannot imagine more protracted and reprehensible behaviour than that of Zurich in blatantly refusing to pay what had been owed in monthly payments for almost eight years (10 years from the date of the accident)," the judge on the case wrote in his ruling. "This failure to pay and continual court applications instigated by Zurich with no reasonable justification were nothing short of torturous on Branco."
"These acts were malicious and designed to leverage a reduced settlement of the claim," the judge said in awarding damages. "The actions of AIG and Zurich establish a pattern of abuse of an individual suffering from financial and emotional vulnerability.”
Branco's lawyer, Alex Kotkas, told CBC News his client endured significant financial hardships while the insurance companies resisted paying — or simply ignored — his claim for ten years.
The judge found the mining company Branco worked for had treated him fairly, and only the insurance companies were liable for the damages.
Neither insurance company has commented, but Kotkas expected them to appeal the decision.
Aggravated damages - $150,000.
Punitive damages - $1.5 million.
Aggravated damages - $300,000.
Punitive damages - $3 million.