The BC Supreme Court has ordered the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to pay C$350,000 in punitive damages for a malicious fraud prosecution against a 69 year old woman.
In 2000, Danica Arsenovski, 69, was walking with her husband when he was struck by a car. Arsenovski herself was not hit by the car but was knocked over and injured. ICBC, through its special investigator John Gould, requested the Crown Counsel to prosecute her for fraud. Gould alleged that Arsenovski made claims she was hit by the car. However, she was proven innocent and countersued for malicious prosecution.
In her decision, Justice Susan Griffin wrote, “Mr. Gould’s handling of the file reveals that rather than operate from a presumption of innocence, Mr. Gould operated from a presumption of guilt in respect of Mrs. Arsenovski.”
The decision also described ICBC’s false fraud allegation as “so high-handed, reprehensible and malicious that it offends this Court’s sense of decency.” Griffin then mentioned that a public corporation like ICBC should treat its clients professionally and objectively by showing an appropriate level of cultural sensitivity towards recent immigrants.
In addition to the punitive damages, the court also ordered ICBC and Gould to pay C$7,225.34 for legal fees and C$30,000 for emotional distress.