British Columbia

Mother sues ICBC after dead son's claim stalls for nearly 3 years

A Surrey, B.C., couple is suing ICBC over a lack of settlement which continues to cost them nearly $800 in monthly payments for a truck that was stolen and heavily damaged three years ago. The Dodge Ram 1500 belonged to their son Alexander Blanarou, who was killed in a targeted shooting.

Marina Sokolovskaia’s son Alexander Blanarou was killed in a targeted shooting in December 2017

Marina Sokolovskaia says her fight with ICBC over her son's stolen truck could cost her and her husband their home. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The parents of a slain Surrey man are suing ICBC, claiming the Crown corporation has allowed their insurance claim to linger nearly three years — putting them at risk of financial ruin — after the vehicle was stolen shortly before their son's death.

"I'm still continuing to make payments for something I never had," said Marina Sokolovskaia, 56. 

"I'll have to sell the house to pay off everything."

In November 2016, Sokolovskaia says her husband agreed to cosign for their son Alexander Blanarou's Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab. The vehicle was purchased new from a dealership for $56,372.97. 

Within a year, however, it had been stolen and badly damaged, prompting the family to open a claim with ICBC.

"It caught us by surprise," said Sokolovskaia. "All electronics and everything was [taken] out."

Making payments even after son's death

In October 2017, Blanarou was arrested in Whitehorse on two drug charges. He was granted bail and returned to the Lower Mainland on Oct. 18, 2017. 

The family says it didn't know the truck had been stolen from where Blanarou left it parked in Surrey until police called to inform him it had been recovered.

With help from Sokolovskaia, Blanarou opened a claim and took the truck to a mechanic.

The family alleges almost no work was done because ICBC mysteriously ordered repairs to stop after just one month.

Sokolovskaia says the truck also developed a mould issue while sitting in the ICBC yard.

The file was made more complicated when Blanarou was shot and killed on Dec. 28, 2017, in what investigators called a targeted incident.

Sokolovskaia says her husband's guarantor status means the couple is stuck making $386 bi-weekly payments on a vehicle she claims is worthless.

As the executor for Blanarou's estate, she took over his ICBC claim — but she says she was greeted with nothing but roadblocks.

"They wouldn't talk to me," said Sokolovskaia, "They wanted to speak to Alex." 

In an email, ICBC said it could not provide details about the family's claim, because the matter is due before the courts next month.

Legal fees, vehicle payments and funeral and burial costs for her son had Sokolovskaia working at two restaurants until one had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Seeking indemnity, damages and legal fees 

Sokolovskaia, meanwhile, insists ICBC has done nothing to help her until recently.

In July, she says ICBC offered to repair the truck with used parts, but she refused.

In a civil claim file in June 2019, Sokolovskaia alleges the Crown corporation "failed to provide a decision with respect to their investigations and has refused to be bound by the policy of automotive insurance."

She wants ICBC to pay her the truck's original $56,372.97 value, damages for breach of contract, as well as her legal fees.

The public insurer, however, denies that Blanarou was insured when the theft occurred. Documents shared with CBC, however, indicate his policy was set to expire Nov. 5, 2017 — several weeks after the car was recovered.

"I don't want anyone to feel sorry but, I mean, this is just not fair," said Sokolovskaia.

Emotional toll 

Sokolovskaia says the worry over financial and legal costs of the fight with ICBC coupled with the loss of her son has left her with heart problems. 

Her husband is a long-haul trucker and she works in the food and beverage industry.

Until COVID-19 hit and closed one of the restaurants she worked in, Sokolovskaia was working two jobs to pay the bills. 

Her friend and coworker Brigitte Bergeron says she's heartbroken that Sokolovskaia has had to go through this turmoil.

"We have a mother who is in mourning and here we have ICBC that's adding insult to injury," said Bergeron. 

ICBC and Sokolovskaia are scheduled to go to trial in B.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 30. 

With files from Belle Puri 

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