Canadian Underwriter

Insurer cleared in case of hearing aid replacement mix-up

January 7, 2022   by David Gambrill

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A home insurer has been cleared of any liability after a hearing aid supplier produced a different brand of ear phones than had been cited in the initial insurance quote, B.C.’s civil resolution tribunal has found.

The small claims court ruled that Intact Insurance had received authorization from the claimant, Joan Vroom, to deal directly with the supplier, Viva Care Hears Inc. Vroom had not stated why Intact should be held liable when Viva provided her a different brand of ear phones than she had expected.

Vroom had lost her Phonaks ear pieces purchased at Costco. A Viva rep suggested she make a claim for replacement hearing aids under her home insurance policy. Since the Phonak brand is sold exclusively through Costco, Viva agreed to supply a different in-the-canal hearing aid brand with enhanced technology at the quoted price of $5,897.

Vroom authorized Intact to pay the insurance proceeds directly to Viva. The insurer agreed with Viva in November 2018 that the supplier would collect the $1,000 deductible directly from the client and invoice the insurer for the balance of the claim. The insurer paid out $4,897 directly to Viva on Dec. 20, 2018.

Four months later, Vroom had still not received the replacement hearing aids with molds or an appointment to fit them.

On Apr. 15, 2019, Vroom told Viva that she would prefer to deal with Ears Hearing Clinics. She asked Viva to transfer the $4,897 it received from Intact for the replacement hearing aids to Ears. Two months later, in June 2019, Viva delivered a boxed set of hearing aids made by ReSound directly to Ears.

Ears returned the ReSound hearing aids to Viva, unopened, in its original packaging. Vroom refused to pay the $1,000 that Viva invoiced for the ReSound brand and sued Viva for the insurance money it received directly from Intact.

“I find the fact that Mrs. Vroom consented to the release of her insurance proceeds to Viva does not mean she agreed to purchase ReSounds,” B.C. Civil Rules Tribunal Member Trisha Apland wrote. “Mrs. Vroom specifically asked Viva not to ‘order’ anything until they discussed it.

“As explained above, I find Viva never discussed the ReSounds with her prior to delivering them to Ears. Therefore, I find Mrs. Vroom never agreed to purchase the ReSounds and was not required to accept them.”

While upholding Vroom’s claim against Viva, the tribunal rejected her claim against Intact, mostly because it wasn’t clear how she thought Intact was responsible for the unwanted ReSounds.

“Despite naming Intact as a respondent, Mrs. Vroom did not make any specific allegations against Intact in the Dispute Notice or explain the basis for her legal claim,” Apland wrote. “The emails show that she asked Intact to release the funds directly to Viva, which it did.

“I find Mrs. Vroom has not identified any reason that Intact would be liable to her for Viva not supplying the quoted fitted hearing aids or to otherwise compensate her for the claimed $4,897. For these reasons, I dismiss Mrs. Vroom’s claim against Intact.”


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