Florence Steele and her husband Harold had been together for 55 years.
The Cape Breton couple’s romance ended in April when Harold died of failing health.
On December 1, 2019, Harold and Florence obtained small life insurance policies from ivari of Toronto, which describes itself as one of Canada’s leading life insurance providers.
But when Florence attempted to collect her late husband’s $12,000 policy this spring, the company denied the claim.
“I was shocked,” she told Global News during an interview outside her home in Delaware, Ontario, where she lives with her daughter, Danielle.
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“That was my biggest problem: I trusted them,” Florence said.
According to the denial, there were inaccurate answers in the original application form that Harold filed with the company.
The form asks health-related questions. But the policy did not require any medical exams, blood tests or other evidence before being approved.
Florence says she and her husband answered health questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities at the time.
“We did everything right…but I guess we weren’t smart enough,” Florence said.
Her daughter, Danielle, said the denial of the claim was traumatic.
“It’s bad enough when a family member dies, but to be taken advantage of like that is horrible. No family should go through what we went through,” Danielle said.
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“They have to follow the policy,” said Toronto lawyer Sivan Tumarkin, whose practice specializes in disability law.
He wrote to ivari asking them to reassess the refusal.
“By law, they have to prove that there was some kind of fraud committed in the beginning,” Tumarkin said.
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The denial letter to Florence, the recipient, contains no such allegation.
Contacted by Global News, an ivari spokesperson declined to discuss details of the insurance claim, citing confidentiality.
“In each case, ivari fully assesses the merits of a claim, in accordance with our claims guidelines and policy obligations. At ivari, we pride ourselves on our commitment to our policyholders, as evidenced by our year-to-date 2022 claims settlement rate of over 99%,” said Suzzette Chapman, Senior Vice President of Communications and human resources at ivari.
In a letter to ivari, Tumarkin cited Ontario’s Insurance Act, which allows companies to cancel an insurance policy only during the first two years of its effect.
“Provided the insurance contract has been in force for two years, the contract is no longer voidable for misrepresentation or non-disclosure, unless such non-disclosure or misrepresentation is both material and fraudulent,” wrote Tumarkin.
“Have I seen this before? I’ve seen this many times before,” Tumarkin told Global News, speaking of insurance company denials in general.
“They should do what’s right and give my mom what she’s entitled to,” Danielle said.
“People need to know that they might end up in the same boat as me,” said Florence, who paid $2,900 in premiums through direct debits.
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