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Ice Storm 1998 : Class action for additionnal living expenses
Monbtréal, 17 novembre 2005 – More than 7 years after the Ice storm which paralysed parts of Quebec in 1998, a class action lawsuit seeking the compensation of thousands of people by a wide range of insurance companies was authorised by the Hon. Judge Carole Julien of the Quebec Superior Court.

Within the scope of this class action suit launched in January 2001, Option consommateurs and Mr. Philippe Lavergne allege that a large number of people insured with one of the respondents were not compensated by their insurance company with respect to additionnal living expenses during the Ice storm of January 1998, despite the fact that they should have been.

In January 1998, approximately 3.5 million people were left without electricity after the worst ice storm on record in Quebec. The majority of these people, if not all, possessed a home insurance policy containing a guarantee against “additional living expenses” in the event that their residence becomes uninhabitable. The insurance companies have nonetheless refused to acknowledge the application of these provisions in the majority of the Ice storm claims.

In essence, on January 8, 1998, the insurance companies, by way of the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), clearly told insured victims that they would not be compensated for additional living expenses without an evacuation order from the civil authorities. Between January 8 and 22, 1998, the IBC issued at least three other press releases to the same effect, inciting people to take decisions which were contrary to their rights. However the insurance contracts did not contain this requirement. Furthermore, on January 13, Luciend Bouchard, then the premier of Quebec, ordered citizens without auxiliary heating system to leave their homes for safety reasons. It was not until January 22, 1998 that the IBC admitted that Lucien Bouchard’s declaration constituted an evacuation order.

Mr Stephan Charles-Grenon of Charles-Grenon and Dion, one of the attorneys for Option consommateurs, explains that, “because of the ambiguity of the IBC’s announcements, many people turned to temporary shelters where they were subjected to miserable conditions, while their insurance policies would have provided for them to shelter and feed themselves in conditions which were much more adequate and comfortable”.

Mr Jean-Pierre Fafard of the office Sylvestre Fafard Painchaud, another attorney for Option consommateurs, adds that, “not only did the respondent insurance companies make false representations to their policy holders as to the extent of their insurance coverage at the time, but they continue today to refuse to adequately compensate them”.

Consequently, in this class action suit, the petitioner Option consommateurs claims a sum of $75 per day per person for each of the respondents’ clients during the Ice storm whose homes were rendered uninhabitable and whose insurance policies included coverage for additional living expenses. An additional sum of $250 for exemplary damages is also claimed on behalf of each member of the class action proceeding.

Eligible participants in the class action do not need to register themselves, as all respondent insurance companies, by court order, have kept their contact information. However, those who have changed addresses since the ice storm, and who are no longer insured with the same insurance company should inform Option consommateurs at: rc_verglas@option-consommateurs.org,
phone : (514) 598-7288, fax : (514) 598-8511.

The respondent insurance companies are:

Allianz Canada, Allstate Insurance, Axa, Belair Insurance, Desjardins General Insurance, General Accident, ING Commerce Group, Industrial Alliance, La Capitale General Insurance, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Missisquoi, Promutuel Verchères, General Security Insurance, SSQ General Insurance, National Insurance, Traders General Insurance, Union canadienne, L'Unique General Insurance, Wawanesa.

For any other information: 
Me Jannick Desforges, directrice par intérim d'Option consommateurs
 (514) 598-7288 
Me Jean-Pierre Fafard, du cabinet Sylvestre Fafard Painchaud 
(514) 937-2881 poste 240 
Me Stephan Charles-Grenon, du cabinet Charles-Grenon Dion 
(819) 537-3535
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