Nfld. & Labrador

FFAW admits error in handling Calvin Tobin death benefit

The family of a deceased fisherman is getting an admission of wrongdoing along with the man's insurance money.

Mistakes were made in early conversations with grieving family, union employee says

Calvin Tobin loved fishing and quit school to go to sea at the age of 15. He was 25 when he died on Aug. 2. (Calvin Tobin/Facebook)

The Fish, Food and Allied Workers union has admitted it made a mistake in relaying false information to the family of a dead fisherman.

The union was too quick to say Calvin Tobin's family did not qualify for his death benefit, when in fact they may qualify for the entire $30,000, said FFAW project manager Robert Keenan.

"We did communicate the wrong information to the family and we've been heartbroken by that," Keenan told the Central Morning Show. "We should be there to be the pillar of support they need and not to cause any further complications."

Tobin, 25, died when the car he was travelling in collided with a transport truck near Clarenville. The driver of the car has since been charged with impaired driving causing death.

He was a day late on his union dues, meaning his insurance policy had lapsed.

Rare insurance option used, FFAW says

After CBC News ran a story on Thursday evening, Sun Life Financial reached out to say the family may still qualify, since the company has a 31-day grace period after non-payment.

A second portion of the policy may be paid out by a second company. Industrial Alliance.

Keenan said the FFAW contacted its insurance providers after Tobin's death to see what could be done. Before it got a definitive answer, the union told Tobin's family he was not covered.

We've never faced this circumstance before.- Robert Keenan, FFAW

While conversations were ongoing with the family, Keenan said the FFAW was working with Sun Life Financial to work out a life insurance conversion option.

Under that option, a member covered by the FFAW's group insurance plan can transition into an individual plan within the grace period.

Calvin Tobin, 25, died in the hours following a car crash on Aug. 1 — a day after his insurance policy lapsed. (Submitted)

When conversion occurs, there is no need to provide proof of insurability — meaning it did not matter that Tobin had died.

Keenan said the situation was rare even for the insurance company, let alone the union.

"We've never faced this circumstance before where someone actually passed away within 24 hours of a policy lapsing," he said. "Did we make a mistake? Yes. But we are doing everything we can to make it right."

Despite the wrong information being given to the family, Keenan said it was not out of malice.

"We have no interest in holding money back. We want to get this money to people. This is the whole purpose of it."

About the Author

Ryan Cooke works for CBC out of its bureau in St. John's.

With files from the Central Morning Show