Insurance brokers have a duty to give sound insurance advice. They hold a fiduciary duty in which they must act in their clients’ best interests. In a commercial insurance context, brokers are required to know the in/outs of a clients’ business in order to source and secure the proper insurance coverage.
This includes being aware of new potential risks, the updated financial situation of the client’s company and what changes in their business the client may have made.
The Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, is a year-round tourist attraction that allows visitors to take a 10-minute gondola ride from the base to the summit. On August 10, 2019, the Gondola’s cables were cut due to an unfortunate act of vandalism. The business was forced to stop operating from August 10, 2019 to February 13, 2020 thus losing 6 months of income.
Prior to the incident, the owners of the Sea to Sky Gondola had purchased commercial insurance via their broker for unexpected interruptions. After submitting a claim with their insurer, the business realized that they were underinsured as only 70% of their losses were indemnified.
The owners filed a lawsuit against their insurance brokers and alleged that they “failed to procure adequate insurance”. Sea to Sky Gondola claims that their brokers should have known that such an amount would not be enough and that they derived their figures from outdated financial information. Furthermore, the owners state that they had advised their brokers that they had a low tolerance for risk and wanted to be “over-insured” and the business was growing year after year.
Sea to Sky’s allegations have not been proven to date as this matter is currently being litigated. Nonetheless, obtaining or even renewing a commercial insurance policy should not be a “rubber stamped” process. When policies are renewed, insurance brokers should take the time and ask questions about any changes to their clients’ business and operations. A failure to do so may be an act of professional negligence and a breach of fiduciary duty.
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