The late Donald Farb called his insurance company to renew his travel insurance policy before his trip to Florida.  Mr. Farb spent about half an hour with a telephone representative from Manulife to complete the insurance application.  He said “no” to a variety of questions regarding his medications and pre-existing conditions.  Thereafter, the travel policy was issued on the basis of the information provided by Mr. Farb, and Mr. Farb went on his trip.  While he was in Florida, Mr. Farb was unexpectedly hospitalized and he incurred over $130,000 (USD) in hospital expenses.  Manulife later denied Mr. Farb’s claim for reimbursement and took the position that his policy was voided on the grounds of misrepresentation.  Mr. Farb died before his insurance claim was resolved and his Estate commenced a court application to continue Mr. Farb’s dispute with Manulife.

In considering the Estate’s application, Justice Belobaba of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice reviewed the first principles of the Insurance Act and how the Act is designed to protect both the insurer and the insured.  While insurance companies are protected by the insured’s duty to disclose, and the right to void coverage if there was a failure to disclose or misrepresentation, the consumer is protected by the requirement that the application process be done in writing so that the consumer will have the opportunity to review the information provided and to make any necessary corrections before the policy takes effect.

Justice Belobaba found that Manulife’s application process satisfied the requirements under the Insurance Act.  He found that there was no issue with the telephone service provided by Manulife and the way that information is collected verbally from the applicant because the completed application form is emailed, in writing, back to the applicant for verification.  The emailed and mailed copy of the insurance policy also contained a multitude of warnings asking the insured to review their policy carefully before traveling and that “the policy is void in the case of fraud, attempted fraud, or if you conceal or misrepresent any material fact in your application”.

As evidence before the Court, Justice Belobaba was provided with an audio recording of Mr. Farb’s telephone call with the insurance representative, and a copy of the materials that were emailed and mailed to Mr. Farb.  Justice Belobaba found that Mr. Farb had two months to review his answers to the medical questions that were asked of him, and there was no evidence that Mr. Farb ever contacted Manulife to correct his answers, which was sufficient to conclude that Manulife was within its rights to void the policy.

The Estate’s application was dismissed, and you can read the full reasons for decision in Estate of Donald Farb v. Manulife, 2020 ONSC 3037, by clicking here.

Travel insurance should always be top of mind before travelling.  It is a good idea to reach out to your insurance company and review your existing policy and the information contained in the underlying application before you go, especially under the present circumstances with COVID-19.  The issue of whether testing and medical care for COVID-19 will be covered while abroad is important to consider before any travel plans are finalized.

Thanks for reading,

Doreen So