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Insurer stalls on payments for elderly survivor of Toronto van attack

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“I think they don’t want to spend money on me,” the Russian-speaking Kozhevnikova said through a translator in an interview at her spartan Yonge St. apartment. “I think they believe that they’ve helped me enough.”

AIG officials declined interview requests. In a written statement, spokesperson Matthew Gallagher said, “AIG is deeply concerned for all the victims of this tragedy and we take our responsibilities very seriously. Working with an independent adjuster, we adhere to processes mandated by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. This includes ensuring that injured individuals are receiving approved necessary care and that care companies are providing all services for which they are billing injured victims. We are restricted from publicly commenting further on individual cases.”

Meanwhile, almost $40,000 in bills for care, assessments and psychological services have gone unpaid, Kozhevnikova’s paralegal and her team of support workers told the Star.

“This case is personal to me and it should be personal to every citizen of the city and the country,” said Michael Taylor, a partner at the Toronto-based personal injury law firm Taylor, Baber and Mergui.

“She’s a victim of something that transformed Toronto — the first attack in this country using a vehicle to murder innocent victims — and when she turned to the system in place to help her, it victimized her again,” Taylor said.

“Insurance companies do routinely engage in these type of behaviours. What makes this particular case egregious is the fact that the attendant care benefits for our client were approved. Notwithstanding, AIG still managed to delay payment for almost a year, knowing that our client was a 91-year-old survivor of WWII who suffered catastrophic physical and psychological injuries as a result of one of the worst terrorist attacks in this country,” Mergui said.

“AIG owed a duty of utmost good faith to our client and failed miserably in that duty.”

Of the $23,400 worth of invoices filed to AIG for personal-support care since May, the insurer has reimbursed $3,129, according to documents obtained by the Star. Of the $26,500 worth of medical assessments and psychological services billed to AIG by another service provider, $10,800 has been paid out. Of $7,700 billed for physiotherapy services, $3,700 has been paid.

The crux of the dispute lies in a disagreement between AIG and Kozhevnikova’s advocates over how badly she was injured.

Born in a village near in the southwestern Russian city of Kazan, Kozhevnikova proudly lays out on her kitchen table the eight military medals she received from the Russian government, acknowledging her service to the war effort between 1942 and 1945 when she worked in a rifle-assembly factory.

On her dining room wall hang photos of her son and grandchildren, who she followed to Canada in 2006. In her small bedroom, a Russian Orthodox icon of Mary and Jesus sits beside two candles.

Her memory of April 23 begins clearly enough. It was a sunny day. She went out for one of her typical walks down Yonge St., stopping at the bank to pay a utility bill and then at a store to pick up eggs, which she placed in the red push cart she always brought along for groceries.

Then she headed back to her apartment, on Yonge south of Finch Ave.

Her next memory is waking up in St. Michael’s Hospital and seeing her daughter-in-law, Olga, by her side. She had been unconscious for three days.

The Toronto Paramedic report says she was struck by a vehicle travelling 60 kilometres an hour, resulting in an “obvious deformity” to her right femur that left her unable to extend her leg.

What followed were weeks of rehabilitation and tests.

“My right leg isn’t mine anymore,” she said. “I had a complete black out of my memory. My spine is painful. There was such pain in my entire body. I wanted to jump from the top of the building.”

An orthopedic assessment in June, obtained by the Star, concluded her lack of mobility due to a fractured right hip met the “catastrophic determination” for severe physical impairment. And, the report said, she was likely to suffer “mental and behavioural impairment and possibly cognitive impairments” that would meet the test for two other catastrophic categories.

The report, commissioned by Kozhevnikova’s law firm and written by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tajedin Getahun, recommends physiotherapy, “continued attendant care benefits for self-care and housekeeping and home maintenance,” a psychological assessment for mental and behavioural impairments, and a neurological assessment for cognitive impairments.

The same month, a psychological assessment commissioned by Kozhevnikova’s law firm concluded she registered “severe” levels of depression and anxiety. The report, written by clinical psychologist Dr. Silvia Tenenbaum, recommended 18 sessions of psychotherapy treatment.

A month later, an occupational therapy assessment ordered by AIG found that while Kozhevnikova was “independent and was actively engaged in her life” before being struck by the van, she now suffered “severe” cognitive impairment, “impaired judgment and clinical reasoning related to her personal safety.” The July 26 report concluded she required assistance with everything from grooming to mobility, and recommended a monthly benefit of $10,231.69 for attendant care.

But an Aug. 1 letter to Taylor from Faber Insurance Adjusters Ltd., acting on behalf of AIG, said the medical information and documentation on Kozhevnikova’s injuries provided “insufficient evidence” of catastrophic impairment.

“They disagreed with the findings of the assessors,” said Taylor. “It’s ludicrous, but that’s how this industry operates.”

A followup psychological evaluation authored by Dr. Mohamed Khaled on behalf of the insurer and dated Aug. 29 reviewed the findings of the previous assessments, and confirmed the treatment plan proposed in them was “reasonable and necessary.”

AIG has now arranged for new assessments of Kozhevnikova this month, using its own medical assessors in order to determine future payments.

Gord Faber, who is managing Kozhevnikova’s claim, visited one of her service providers in September with a member of AIG’s “special investigation unit” to determine the extent of care she was receiving, according to an Oct. 2 email he sent to Taylor.

Faber declined to comment.

The support agencies helping Kozhevnikova have continued to provide basic care without full payment, based on assurances from Taylor that the invoices will eventually be paid — if not by the insurer, then by his law firm.

“If we didn’t do that, I don’t think she’d be alive today,” said Taylor. “Or maybe she’d be alive but in long-term care. Everyone involved is carrying enormous financial risk.”

Evgeniya Bakshy, a registered nurse and owner of Wellness Home Care and Services Inc. which has been caring for Kozhevnikova since May, says she is a vulnerable woman who can’t advocate for herself.

“She is a physically, psychologically frail client who doesn’t speak English, a person who can’t stand up for herself. This story is disgusting to me,” Bakshy said. “Her safety is being jeopardized. She’s going to break something, end up in hospital or a nursing home. It will be the government system that will be paying for her care there.”

Viktoria Ginzburg owns 101 Physio, which has been providing physiotherapy and psychological services to Kozhevnikova.

“We’ve been having trouble with (AIG) from the beginning,” Ginzburg said. “They’ve been saying she doesn’t need psychological services. Why I’m really pushing on this one is because of the trauma inflicted. She was hit by a car maliciously and the insurance company is taking the position that she doesn’t need anything. It’s ridiculous.”

Asked why she has continued to supply care without payment, Ginzburg said, “What would you suggest I do? She’s not going to get the help she needs otherwise.”

Kozhevnikova says she was more mobile when she initially came home and had a caregiver working with her steadily. “I could walk a little. The caregiver held the chair behind me. It would help me.”

Now, she’s a shadow of her former self, she says. No more walks down Yonge St. No more going out of her small apartment at all without someone to push her wheelchair.

“Doctors told me I have to walk more. I can make a couple of steps and then I have to stop,” she said, a tear falling from one eye. “I’m by myself. I don’t even go downstairs.”

On Oct. 29, a Toronto law firm acting on behalf of AIG asked to conduct an examination under oath with Kozhevnikova to get information about “the extent and type of injuries sustained” and assess “whether the attendant care was incurred.”

Taylor rejected the request.

“Examination under oath gives insurance companies an opportunity to grill claimants on every invoice and treatment,” he said. “She’s got no physical or emotional capability to go under oath. They have no moral right to put this elderly lady through this process. They’re just creating delays in paying the benefits, which are causing hardship.”

Robert Cribb can be reached at rcribb@thestar.ca and on Twitter @thecribby

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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