Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Injured Welder Wins Decade-Long Legal Fight with Big Insurance Companies

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Injured Welder Wins Decade-Long Legal Fight with Big Insurance Companies

Article excerpt

Injured welder wins fight with big insurance


SASKATOON - A judge says the treatment of an injured welder was "nothing short of torturous" in a case that pitted the man against big insurance companies.

Luciano Branco sued Zurich and AIG in 2001 and has been fighting for compensation ever since. A Court of Queen's Bench judge in Saskatoon recently awarded him nearly $5 million in damages.

Justice Murray Acton called the actions of the insurers "cruel and malicious" and said they establish "a pattern of abuse of an individual suffering from financial and emotional vulnerability."

Branco's lawyer, Alex Kotkas, says he's not sure if the companies will appeal.

"Part of me wants to hope that they don't appeal, of course, because we would like Mr. Branco to receive the money that is due to him, but thus far the behaviour of the insurance companies in this case tells me that's a very faint hope and that almost certainly they will appeal," Kotkas said Tuesday in a phone interview from Calgary.

The claim started in the remote mountains of Kyrgyzstan on Christmas Day 1999. Branco, a Canadian citizen who emigrated from Portugal, was working at a mine operated by Kumtor Operating Co., a subsidiary of Saskatoon-based Cameco Corp. (TSX:CCO), when he dropped a steel plate on his foot.

He packed his foot with snow to relieve the pain and take down the swelling, but kept working.

Branco reinjured his foot when he stepped on a piece of steel the following March. He couldn't go back to work.

Court documents show Branco went to doctors in Portugal, where he was living at the time, and in Canada, as demanded by the insurance companies. He took medication, did physiotherapy and had surgery, but nothing helped. Branco remains with chronic pain and "significantly reduced function" of his right leg, say the documents.

The judge's ruling notes that Branco lost his ability to support his family, his marriage broke down, and his daughter had to buy him clothes. …

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