Don't Delay When Claiming for Life Insurance Benefits
The recent decision in Dicaro Estate v. Manufactures Life Insurance Company considered an estate trustee's ability bring a claim for insurance proceeds more than ten years after the deceased's death.
The deceased died in 1999 due to complications relating to liver disease and after undergoing a biopsy. He had worked for Molson Breweries for almost 25 years and had various insurance policies issued by Manulife, the defendant in the proceeding.
After the deceased’s death, his widow (who was the plaintiff in the action) applied for and received the basic benefit claim of $45,000. On the proof of claim form filed, the plaintiff specified that the death was NOT accidental (and, accordingly, no accident/dismemberment benefits were paid).
In 2000, the plaintiff commenced a medical malpractice claim against the hospital and medical practitioners involved in the deceased’s care at the time of his death. The decision was released in 2003. It was during that proceeding that the plaintiff later claimed she first learned that the deceased’s death was caused by an ‘accidental poke’ during the biopsy. As a result, in 2007, the plaintiff filed a claim with the defendant for accident benefits. In 2008, Manulife denied the claim due to lateness as well as non-compliance with the proof of claim provisions in the insurance contract.
The plaintiff commenced an action against the defendant in 2010 seeking the accidental death benefits under the deceased’s various insurance policies. The defendant then moved for summary judgment seeking to have the plaintiff’s claim dismissed arguing that there was no genuine issue for trial.
Justice Chapnik considered the various limitation periods that could possibly apply – under the policy itself as well as (the now revoked) s. 206(1) of the Insurance Act and s. 34(5) of the Limitations Act. She found that no matter what permutation of the limitation periods was applied, the plaintiff was clearly out of time for bringing the claim.
The plaintiff also relied on s. 96(1) of the Courts of Justice Act, arguing that principles of fairness and equity should be applied in the circumstances. However, Chapnik J. found that this would not be appropriate in the given case given the plaintiff’s non-compliance with limitations imposed by statute.
Accordingly, she granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.