WINNIPEG _ A Winnipeg couple has sued Manitoba's biggest company and won. Michel and Lorraine Mignault took Great-West Life to civil court after they were bilked out of their retirement savings by their former financial planner, Gary Palmer . They claimed the company, which has assets under administration of more than $705 billion , according to its latest quarterly report, was "vicariously liable" for Palmer's fraudulent behaviour, which occurred from 1997 to 2006. Great-West countered that Palmer was an independent contractor and it wasn't responsible for his actions. Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice Brenda Keyser disagreed, however, awarding the Mignaults $528,834 , and saying Great-West "cloaked (Palmer) with the attributions of apparent authority." Palmer was convicted of defrauding 23 people in November 2010 , including the theft of $1.5 million during his decade-long run, and sentenced to eight years in prison. The Mignaults had asked for $665,000 to cover the $458,789 that Palmer withdrew from their accounts, plus interest, plus $500,000 in punitive damages. But Keyser did not agree that Great-West's actions necessitated punitive damages. Dave Hill , the lawyer representing the Mignaults, said he was happy for his clients, who went through seven years of angst in addition to losing virtually all of their retirement assets. Their retirement nest egg was worth less than $9,600 when they first started their legal action in 2006. "I act for one other family that was defrauded by Mr. Palmer and we've started a lawsuit (against Great-West). We were waiting to see the outcome of this case first," Hill said. A spokeswoman for Great-West said the company was "disappointed" with Keyser's ruling. "We are reviewing the decision and considering an appeal," Marlene Klassen said. "This is a rare and unfortunate situation where a single independent adviser was found to have committed fraud." ( Winnipeg Free Press )
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