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13 November 2018
The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) recently agreed to hear an appeal of a Quebec case concerning the obligations and rights of a pension plan administrator after a pensioner went missing.
A 77-year-old retired university professor went for a walk one crisp autumn day and never returned. He had been receiving a pension of approximately C$7,000 per month from his former employer, Carleton University. The type of pension that he had chosen to receive was a 'life only' pension, meaning that it would be paid only to him during his lifetime, with nothing to be left to his heirs or estate.
A 10-day police search found no trace of him. When Carleton University found out that he was missing, it wanted to stop the pension payments. The professor's former partner, heir and property administrator objected, pointing to the Quebec law that presumed him to be alive until he could be declared dead after being missing for seven years. Therefore, the university continued to make the pension payments.
Five years later the professor's body was discovered in dense woods not far from his home. A coroner concluded that his death was accidental, and that he had died shortly after going on his walk.
The university had paid almost half a million Canadian dollars in pension benefits, from the date that he went missing to the date that his body was found. The university wanted the money back and sued the professor's former partner for reimbursement.
A Quebec Superior Court judge and the Quebec Court of Appeal agreed that the university had been correct to continue the monthly pension payments for the five years that the pensioner was missing because the pensioner was presumed to be alive at the time. However, once the date of death had been determined, the university was also correct to claim reimbursement of the pension payments that were made after the pensioner died. The university had a retroactive entitlement to be reimbursed, in circumstances where no one did anything wrong.
The SCC has yet to issue a final ruling on this case.(1)
For further information on this topic please contact Mary M Picard at Dentons Canada LLP by telephone (+1 416 863 4511) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Dentons website can be accessed at www.dentons.com.
(1) For more information please see www.occupationalhealthandsafetylaw.com.
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