Whiten v. Pilot Insurance Co.

In Marine Insurance on (Updated )

Although not a marine insurance case, this decision by the Supreme Court of Canada is of significant interest to marine insurers. The facts were that the Plaintiff’s home was destroyed in a fire. The Defendant, the Plaintiff’s insurer, denied the claim made under the insurance policy on the grounds that the fire had been deliberately set even though the local fire chief, the Defendant’s own fire investigator and the Defendant’s initial expert all agreed that there was no evidence of arson. At trial, the jury awarded the Plaintiff $1 million in punitive damages against the Defendant for bad faith denial of coverage. On appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal the punitive damage award was reduced to $100,000.00. On further appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that although the $1 million award of the jury was higher than the court would have made it was within the high end of the range where juries are free to make their assessment. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reinstated the jury’s punitive damage award of $1 million for failure to act in good faith.