Superior Court justice compares events to Ripley’s iconic tagline in his decision on litigation, writes Bob Aaron

A court case involving the appraisal of a fire loss on a Toronto home was described in a Superior Court ruling last month as a Ripley’s Believe It or Not event.

“The debacle will make a fine attraction at Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum in Niagara Falls, Ontario,” said Justice Paul Perell in his decision.

He then continued with seven paragraphs all beginning with the familiar Ripley tagline:

  • “Believe it or not, with a fire that occurred on February 16, 2015 … seven years later, the appraisal process under …the Insurance Act remains stalled just outside the starting gate.
  • “Believe it or not, with a fire insurance claim action in the Superior Court of Justice commenced on February 1, 2017, five years after the launch of the action, it has not got beyond the (exchange of documents) stage.
  • “Believe it or not, … seven years later, the repairs have not been completed and the fire damaged home remains uninhabitable.
  • “Believe it or not, (the insurer) Wawanesa’s fire repair contractors caused structural and environmental damage to the premises while undertaking repairs of the fire damaged home.
  • “Believe it or not, with Additional Living Expense (“ALE”) coverage for $79,000, for seven years, Wawanesa has spent $749,326.06 to house the Plaintiffs …
  • “Believe it or not, after seven years of ALE payments, Wawanesa then abruptly decided to turn off the tap, prompting the Arvanitopoulos family to bring … an injunction motion to continue the ALE payments.
  • “Believe it or not, the appraisal process and the court action have been flummoxed by uncooperative and officious litigants.”

The Arvanitopoulos family held guaranteed replacement cost insurance on their home, as well as alternate living coverage for $79,100.

Justice Perell wrote that the first year after the fire, “an inspection and reconstruction debacle began, and it has continued to this date.” Perell noted that Wawanesa lost 18 containers of the homeowners’ clothing and personal belongings including jewelry, heirlooms and religious artifacts.

While making repairs, a contractor disturbed asbestos wrap on the heating ducts, contaminating the house. Construction accidents caused new damage. Water pipes burst. Floors were damaged. Unauthorized work was performed, “some of it negligently.” There was more contamination with the removal of the furnace.

The judge noted that serious allegations of negligence, dishonesty, and misfeasance were made against one of Wawanesa’s contractors.

A year after the fire, the Arvanitopoulos family barred any of Wawanesa’s contractors from the house.

“Believe it or not,” wrote the judge, “the state of the property has not changed since 2016.”

Complex cross-motions were brought in April before Justice Perell under the appraisal process set out in the Insurance Act. The insurer wanted to be allowed to inspect the property, and the owners wanted the ALE payments to continue beyond the insurer’s April cut-off. Both motions were dismissed, with the ALE payments ending in July.

For homeowners, the lessons from this case are:

  • Always secure replacement cost insurance
  • Choose your insurance company carefully
  • Make sure you have enough alternate living expense coverage
  • In the event of a loss, it’s best co-operate with your insurer, and
  • Check the reputation of any restoration company hired to remediate the property.

Arvanitopoulos v. The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, 2019 ONSC 6912 (CanLII), <>