Provincial law is preventing an insurer from approving a Collingwood, Ontario, woman’s claim after her husband set fire to the bedroom.
Following a heated argument last year that ended with Terri-lynn Robison threatening to end their marriage of 11 years, her husband Adam Van Es set fire to the bedroom in an act of defiance. The conflagration quickly spread to the rest of the home, causing $160,000 worth of damage. Robison, her husband, and their pet dog fortunately managed to escape the flames.
Robison’s husband was arrested that night and later charged with one count of arson with disregard for human life; he pleaded guilty. Last March, he was sentenced to two years less a day.
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For Terri-lynn Robison, however, her problems were just beginning.
After the incident, she was disheartened to learn that her insurer Allstate had denied her claim. The company told her that her homeowner policy is “null and void” because her husband – who was insured under the same policy – had intentionally set the fire.
Allstate is not denying her claim on a whim; Ontario’s laws state that insurance companies have the right to deny a claim from a victim if the actions of anyone else on the policy are considered “intentional or criminal.”
CBC found that there have been other cases like Robison’s in which a spouse set fire to a shared property, leaving the innocent partner to pay for repairs out of their own pocket.
Only the provinces of BC, Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec have laws that compel insurers to pay out claims to so-called “innocent co-insureds.” Saskatchewan is expecting an amendment to its insurance act to have the same clause by 2018.
While the exterior of Robison’s home currently looks unblemished, the interiors are ruined. Fire-damaged portions of the home still exude a smoky odor, and the basement is wet and moldy. The state of her home has forced her to stay at a women’s shelter.
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Robison told CBC that, with her finances spread too thinly, she is financially on the ropes and could lose her home to foreclosure.
“I’m facing real bankruptcy. [Allstate] won’t settle. They just have everything in limbo,” she said. “It’s been 11 months. That’s a long time to have your house sitting there rotting.”
CBC raised Robison’s case to Allstate once more, and the insurer said that it was willing to review its policies in cases like hers.
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