Stronge Vs. London Life Insurance Company            

(And Canadian Tire Corporation)

 

Attention: If you have a Group Insurance Policy with your company, then I would strongly recommend that you read the full content of this website. It tells the true story of how both London Life and my employer Canadian Tire Corporation conspired to finanical destroy my family after I applied for long term disability coverage. I have included within this site a letter I sent to the Owner of Canadian Tire, Ms. Martha Billes, describing all the dispicable tactics that were used against us during our 19 year battle. I have also included the one paragraph reply that I received from CTC's Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Ms. Robyn Collver. I did this so that I could show you just how truly heartless these individuals are when it comes to the welfare of a decent and hardworking Canadian family.

If you have a similar story and want it added to the future site, please contact me at stronge@sympatico.ca


Canadian Tire Corporation Limited
2180 Yonge Street 10Th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M4P 2V8
Canada

Dear Ms. Billes,

Before our appalling circumstances force me to go public with my story regarding your company's conduct, I've decided that I would first write you directly as the owner of Canadian Tire and give you a firsthand account of the cruelty that has been perpetrated upon my family by not only representatives of CTC, but also by those of your group policy insurance carrier, London Life. My name is Dean Stronge and I was a loyal employee of your company for 14 years until I became permanently disabled from damaged cause by a viral meningitis and encephalitis infection. Now as a result of the cruel and despicable tactics that were used against me in a court of law by these individuals, my family and I are now bankrupt and financially ruined. In my final attempt to find some form of fair-minded justice, I have enclosed with this letter most of the details of the events that took place during this time and I only ask that you review it and judge for yourself, if the actions that were taken against me are in keeping with your company's policy concerning the treatment of your permanently disabled employees. And if they are not, then I was hoping that you could use your considerable influence and power and intervene on our behalf.

To start from the beginning, I became ill in Feb.1,1987. I had awoken that morning with a severe headache and cervical spinal pain which progressively became worse as the day went on. All of the muscles in my body began to tighten up and I eventually ended up collapsing on the bedroom floor. After my wife help me back into bed, we took my temperature which had gone up to 104 degrees. I also had the worse flu-like symptoms that I've ever experienced in my entire life. As the day continued, I began to have hallucinations and the muscles in my neck became so taut that I could not bend my head forward. The following day my wife took me to see my family doctor and he said that there was a very bad virus going around and that I should be better in a couple of weeks. Well of course this did not happen. Instead my health continued to worsen to the point that I was confined to bed for 20 hours a day and had lost over 50 pounds of weight in the first two months. After several months of this deterioration in my health, the nurse at CTC suggested that I see the company doctor, which I did. After a consultation with this doctor, he wrongly diagnosed me with something called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It was not unusual at that time for doctor's to use this diagnosis when they could not figure out what was wrong with a patient, so unfortunately for me it was this wrong diagnosis that ended up being used in my court case.

Next I was forced to sue London Life for non-payment of my long term disability coverage in Nov. 1989. I had tried to continue working part time for over a year and a half but due to the devastating effect that these couple of hours a day were having on my health I had no other option but to leave Canadian Tire. At this point, London Life had chosen to use one of their despicable tactics of withholding any payments and so I was then forced to sell my Retirement Stock so that I could continue to support my family and pay the $25,000 for the legal action against them. To continue, by the time I got to the discovery process of the lawsuit I was informed that London Life had done video surveillance on me during our move from Toronto to Cambridge and this was their ground for non-payment of my coverage. They had said that because the surveillance showed that I was able to help with the move on those two days, that I was not considered disabled. I had told them that I had been in bed for the last 6 months prior to my participation in the move and that I had arranged to have extra help. But my friends had to back out at the last minute due to being called in to work for overtime on the date of the move. So I was then forced to help out because the only ones left to help were my wife and her elderly parents. I also explained to the lawyers that the simple reason we moved was because we could no longer afford living in Toronto due to the fact that I was still extremely ill and unable to pay the bills. At the end of discovery they did however make me an offer of $25,000 plus my lawyer expenses to put an end to this legal action. But because I knew that the money would not last very long due to the fact that I was not getting any better, I had to decline the offer. Anyway, to make a long story short, after waiting 3 long years, we finally got to see a pre-trial judge in Oct. 1992 and he agreed with our case against London Life and told them that they should pay the coverage. But once again London Life chose not to begin this coverage and so we were then forced to go to court in Nov. 1992. At that time I was still under the impression that once we got to court, London Life would be forced to play fairly. But once the video surveillance was shown I could tell that London Life had tampered with this evidence. During the unloading part of the move I had collapsed in the back of the moving van and had to be carried back into the house and this of course was not in the video surveillance. There was all kinds of examples of this type of tampering that went on all during their video presentation. I now know that there were hours of additional surveillance done on me that were never shown in court. And I'm sure that these missing parts would of shown that I was indeed in a great deal of distress during the move. Next, London Life's lawyers tried to suggest that I was the worst employee CTC had ever had. But in reality, most of my time at your company I was actually consider an Above Standard To Superior Employee and with a note in my Employee Performance Report saying they were planning on elevating me into management once I became well. Unfortunately all of this information disappeared from my employee file and as it turned out, it was just another example of how London Life, with the help of some of your employees, could destroy a persons credibility simply by eliminating any evidence that would prove to the contrary. My time in court was an extremely difficult time for me because I was still suffering the effects of the encephalitis and was not able to recall clearly all the events that their lawyer's were questioning me about. And due to this deficiency, I was then accused by London Life's lawyers of trying to mislead the court, which of course was not true. Even now, my short term memory is so bad that I have to have almost everything written down or I'll forget it. Anyway, once the trial was over it took another month before the judge had made his ruling that I had lost the case. I then filed for an appeal which I also lost because of the impact the tampered video surveillance had on the judges.

Well since that time I have had a battery of tests done which now show that I have actually been suffering for all these years from permanent damage to my cervical spinal cord, which was caused by an initial viral meningitis and encephalitis infection. These symptoms have absolutely no relationship to the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, (CFS) that I was first given by the doctor I was sent to by Canadian Tire's on staff nurse. This information came to me as a result of several other sources, and one of them was a letter that I received from Canadian Pension Plan(C.P.P.) in 1998 informing me that they were in the process of reviewing my file to make sure that I was still eligible for Disability Benefits, of which I had been receiving since 1989. I was told that in order for them to complete their review I would have to have a full medical examination performed. It was during this evaluation with a doctor who specialized in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation that I was finally informed of a correct diagnosis. But unfortunately for me this information came a little to late to have any impact on my court case.

The doctor began her examination by asking me for details on how my illness had initially started on February 1,1987. I explained to her that I had awoke that morning with a severe headache and cervical spinal pain,(this is not a symptom of CFS), which progressively became worse as the day went on. I had also described to her all of the other symptoms that I had just mentioned above and also told her that the severe headache and spinal pain plus the other symptoms associated with this problem have never fully gone away. The doctor then conducted several objective neurological tests that confirmed that there was indeed damage done to my nervous system. As the conversation continued, I had also informed the specialist that I had been seen by an orthopaedic surgeon in 1994 about the spinal pain and that he had felt that the initial onset of my illness was due to viral meningitis and not CFS. Upon hearing this, the C.P.P. specialist then said that she agreed with this diagnosis and said that there were indeed cases like mine where the initial viral meningitis and encephalitis can and does cause permanent neurological damage like mine. I asked her if there was anything she could do about the chronicity and severity of my neck pain as well as the other symptoms that I was experiencing. I was told that I could expect little or no improvement to these symptoms for the remainder of my life.To clarify this point she then wrote in her final report to C.P.P. that, His residual capacity for employment at this time is very limited. His prognosis for returning to employment is poor. He is functionally limited in all capacities of his life.

To give you a better understanding of what I still have to deal with physically every day, here is a list of the symptoms of the post-viral meningitis and encephalitis damage that I still continue to suffer from. I still have severe headache and cervical spinal pain 24 hours a day,which now requires 180 mg. of Morphine sulphate, plus 90 mg. of Codeine per day. I also suffer from something called extremely brisk hyperreflexia in both legs and arms which causes them at times to fling uncontrollably. Also, the damage in my spine has caused problems with my blood pressure, and I must take 50 mg. of Atenolol and 12.5 mg. of Accuretic per day. I also have chronic glomerulonephritis (blood in the urine) which was cause by the infection and was confirmed by a kidney biopsy. To decrease nerve activity so that I can sleep I must also take 200 mg. of Carbamazepine and 10 mg. of Baclofen at night. I also have severe nerve pain down my arms,and my feet, hands and face are severely numb. I also want you to know that I had an MRI done in Jan. 2005 which showed numerous spots in my brain that were caused by the damage done by this infection.

Now to give you another clear example of the despicable conduct of this company, a few months later I received a phone call from my lawyer informing me that London Life had placed a lien on my home for $12,000 to pay for their cost at trial. My lawyer was absolutely stunned by the degree of cruelty of this action and said that he had never heard of an insurance company ever doing such a thing to an disabled person. After talking to their lawyers and explaining to them about the correct diagnosis that I had just received from the orthopaedic surgeon in 1994 regarding my spinal damage, they said that they would reduce the amount that I owed them to $8000. I was then forced to re-mortgage our home to make this payment which of course only served to add to our despair.

About 6 months later another event took place and this time a London Life representative came to my door in the guise of selling me disability insurance. But once we began talking I could immediately tell that he knew everything about my case and was actually there to explain their position regarding the trial. He then proceeded to inform me that the coverage that I actually had in my group coverage at CTC was only valued a $25,000 if I became permanently disabled. He went on to explain that the premium paid per person under this plan at CTC was only a few dollars per month. He said that if I had had my own personal Long Term Disability coverage prior to the start of my illness, the cost would be about $120 per month and he said that for sure I would have been covered from the beginning of my disability and would not have been involved in a lawsuit at all. I now wish someone at Human Resources would of made me aware when I first started with the company, that this coverage was actually only good for 2 years. Even the information that I received in my Employee Benefits Booklet was misleading. It stated that if an employee became permanently disabled then they would be fully covered until the age of 65 years old. If I had known that this information was not true, I can assure you that I would of taken steps in the beginning to make sure that I was properly protected in case I became permanently disabled.

In closing, I want you to know Ms. Billes that this battle has been a living hell for my family. If it were not for the support my wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters, I don't think that I would have been able to continue on with this degree of pain. Even with all the medication that I take everyday, my life is still 80% gone. London Life and their lawyers can distort the truth all they want in a courtroom, but this does not change the reality of how disabled I actually am. Every morning I must take 5 different drugs and then wait for two hours for them to take effect. Even now these drugs only allow me to do the very minimal of activities without triggering a severe flare-up. My health has become so bad that if I do over exert myself, I'm then forced to spend days or even weeks on the couch until the inflammation in my spine begins to subside. This pattern has not change for over 22 years and will not likely change for the remainder of my life. My family and I have always hoped that we could somehow put this matter behind us and continue on with our lives, but unfortunately the financial burdens have finally taken their toll. Now as a consequence of all that has happened, I have not only lost all my retirement stocks, but my family and I have just lost our home and have recently gone through bankruptcy. My original plan was to work for CTC until I was 65 years old, but of course this didn't happen. Instead, I'm now 53 years old and have been stripped of everything that I have ever owned, with absolutely no possibility of ever being able to regain my health and change this appalling situation. I honestly don't believe that this is what you and your father had planned for the future of your permanently disabled employees. I'm not asking for a lot, I'm only asking to be treated fairly. So if there is anything that you could do to help with this deplorable situation, I would greatly appreciate your assistance in this matter.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply.

Dean Stronge


This is the reply that I received from Robyn Collver, Canadian Tire's Senior Vice President, Secretary &General Counsel.

Dear Mr. Stronge

Martha Billes has forwarded to me your letter dated Jan. 19,2011. At her request, we have undertaken a review of our records to asist in an understanding of your letter.

We have reviewed our database of employee files and have made inquires of London Life. We have been unable to locate any records relating to your employment with Canadian Tire or your disability claim. We note that you resigned in the 1980's. Applicable records would have been destroyed following your resignation or at some point after the conclusion of your court case. As you may be aware, certain considerations, including privary and document retention best practices, restrict the retention of information about employees after employment has ceased.

Martha has asked that I convey her sympathy for your situation. (Note: She has a lot of nerve, because it was her company that help bring on this deplorable situation in the first place.)

Yours Truly,

Robyn Collver.


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