Ontario MPP introduces insurance recovery bill for domestic violence victims after CBC investigation
CBC News has been investigating insurance companies denying claims for cases involving domestic violence
A Toronto MPP has introduced a private member's bill aimed at forcing insurers to pay out claims for cases involving domestic violence, after a CBC News investigation into the matter.
Liberal Mike Colle, who represents –EglintonLawrence, introduced the Innocent Persons Insurance Recovery Act Wednesday in Ontario's Legislative Assembly.
"No one deserves to go through this double hell," Colle said.
"This is a violation of a person's basic human rights that is tolerated."
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The bill comes just weeks after a CBC News investigation that found some insurance companies have policy clauses that can be used to nullify coverage if one of the people named on the policy intentionally set the fire.
Right now, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec are the only provinces with laws that compel insurance companies to pay out claims to innocent victims, or "innocent co-insureds." Saskatchewan anticipates it will have a law in place early next year. Elsewhere in Canada, including in Ontario, claimants must rely on the goodwill of the insurance company.
Colle called Ontario an "outlier" when it comes to protecting innocent people.
He spoke alongside Terri-lynn Robison and Wendy Soczek Wednesday, two women who shared their stories with CBC News.
"It is critical that something be done to right this wrong," Colle said.
"This is a very blatant injustice that exists in Ontario that has been on the books for years and needs to be changed."
'This law needs to go through'
Last year, following a heated argument, Robison told her husband of 11 years their relationship was over and started packing his clothes. She said he left the room briefly before returning with a barbecue lighter, and then set fire to the bed.
Her husband, Adam Van Es, was arrested that night and later charged with one count of arson with disregard for human life. He pleaded guilty and in March was sentenced to two years less a day.
Despite being a victim of arson, Robison's insurance company, Allstate, denied her claim. The company says her "VIP" homeowner policy is "null and void" because her husband, who was insured under the same policy, had intentionally set the fire.
"My daughter and I and my dog were left homeless," Robison said. "We stayed in a shelter for a month."
She said she works 70 hours a week at two jobs, but still can't afford the steep repair costs — which are pegged at around least $160,000.
"I want to make sure this doesn't happen to more people," she said. "This bill, this law — this needs to go through so other women don't feel so alone."
Hope for change
Soczek spent nine weeks in a coma after her husband sprayed her with gasoline and lit both her and their house on fire in May of 2010. He was charged with attempted murder.
Soczek underwent 30 surgeries. The physical injuries and emotional trauma have left her unable to work and she lives on $1,080 a month from disability and CPP payments.
Her insurance company, Allstate, denied her claim to repair the house — something she said she can't understand.
"Why do other provinces have different laws than what we have?" She said. "We pay taxes. Why are we separating?"
Soczek lost the court case fighting for her insurance claim, but CBC News has learned Allstate contacted her lawyer Tuesday offering Soczek a settlement. There is still no word on its exact terms.
Meanwhile, an online petition addressed to Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa calls on the government to force insurance companies to pay out these types of claims. As of Wednesday evening, it had nearly 5,600 signatures.
Colle said he hopes the Innocent Persons Insurance Recovery Act bill will pass by June.
With files from Rachel Houlihan, Diana Swain and Chelsea Gomez