ICBC’s Conduct Malicious

BC Supreme Court Finds ICBC’s Conduct Malicious in a False Fraud Allegation and Awards $350,000 in Punitive Damages

The case of Arsenovski v. Bodin, [2016] BCSC 359, involves an action by the Plaintiff, Ms. Arsenovski, against the Defendants, ICBC and two ICBC employees, for damages arising from malicious prosecution. The Plaintiff and her husband were recent immigrants to Canada. On the night of January 31, 2000, the couple was crossing the road after attending an English language class when the Plaintiff’s husband was struck by a vehicle and injured. Although the Plaintiff was not struck, she too fell down and sustained injury. A week later, the couple was encouraged by a friend to report the incident to ICBC, which they did, using a friend as a translator. The Plaintiff communicated to ICBC that she did not know how she fell.

Through an in-house special investigation officer, ICBC recommended to Crown Counsel a total of three fraud charges against the couple.  The Crown accepted one of the recommendations and the Plaintiff was charged with making a false statement to ICBC contrary to the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act. The Plaintiff, however, had not made a false statement. On the day of the criminal trial, the charges were stayed. The Plaintiff succeeded in suing the defendants for malicious prosecution. In her decision, Madam Justice Griffin found that the conduct of the liable defendants was “so high-handed, reprehensible and malicious that it offends this Court’s sense of decency and is deserving of punishment of punitive damages”.  Madam Justice Griffin stated:

[382]     The conduct of the liable defendants was high on the scale of blameworthiness. The defendant ICBC is a public insurance company. As an insurance company it is expected to act in good faith. As a public company, its employees are also expected to meet high standards of professional conduct.

[383]     One of ICBC’s key purposes and reasons for existence is to serve the residents of British Columbia, by providing compensation when someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident. The corporation does not serve the residents of this province when it uses tactics of intimidation to discourage civil claims.

[384]     Not only were the public resources of ICBC wasted by malicious prosecution of Mrs. Arsenovski, it was foreseeable that this would lead to wasting of the public resources of Crown counsel and judicial resources on the day the case came to trial. Mr. Gould also encouraged other public agencies to take action against her without reasonable grounds to do so, namely health and immigration authorities. The wasting of such public resources to so vindictively pursue Mrs. Arsenovski is deserving of the highest level of condemnation.

[385]     While there is no hint of concealment of evidence, there were improper motives, namely the deterrence of civil claims for damages.

The Plaintiff was awarded $30,000 for emotional distress and $350,000 in punitive damages.

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