Canadian Firefighter Magazine

The fine print behind N.S. lawsuit

By Canadian Firefighter   

Features Blogs Editor’s blog

Aug. 13, 2008

Two weeks ago, we posted a story on our website about a Nova Scotia couple suing the local volunteer fire departments, claiming damage to their home was the fault of firefighters from North Sydney and Frenchvale.

documents say that the volunteer firefighters put out the flames and left the scene, but that
the fire started up again later and subsequently destroyed the home of Larry
and Diane Stonehouse.

The story
was first reported by the Halifax Chronicle Herald, based on court documents
that list the Stonehouses as the plaintiffs. Interestingly, the couple was
unaware that the suit had been filed and learned about it only through the

reports revealed that the couple’s insurance company, Aviva, had filed the suit
in an effort to recoup the $400,000 it had paid to the couple to rebuild their

investigation shows the Herald correctly reported the facts as they appear in
the court documents. The fine print on household insurance policies says that
if a lawsuit is filed, it will be in the name of the policy holder, not the
name of the insurance company. Certainly somebody, presumably the insurance
company or its lawyer, should have told the Stonehouses before the suit was filed.

Stonehouses were embarrassed. They live in a small community and they likely
know some of the firefighters who did their best to save the home. The
Cape Breton Regional Municipality has said publicly that it will
pay any costs associated with the suit, which alleges the fire departments
failed to properly train their members, adequately equip firefighters, properly
extinguish the blaze and search for possible hot spots and remain at the scene
to ensure the fire was out.

Interestingly, we received some e-mails and comments about the story from readers who were stunned that the insurance company filed the suit.

Lesson learned: always read the fine print.


keep you posted.


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