Isadore Goldberg learned he was deceased from the teller at his bank.
He was not amused.
Goldberg, 89, a longtime Côte St-Luc city councillor who has a municipal park named after him, took TD Canada Trust and Toronto Dominion Bank to small claims court on the matter, and won.
Quebec Court Judge Dominique Vézina recently awarded him $3,000 in damages, saying the mistake “triggered inconveniences” for Goldberg, a “respected retired man” who had been a TD client for more than 30 years.
Goldberg’s 2012 visit to the bank branch in Montreal was prompted by a letter he received from Revenue Quebec asking where it could direct-deposit a cheque, since his bank had refused it.
‘I didn’t think it was very funny’
When he went to the branch for an explanation, he learned from the teller — who knew him — that according to TD’s file, he was deceased.
“I didn’t think it was very funny,” said Goldberg, a councillor in Côte St-Luc from 1982 to 2002.
He said he wanted to straighten out the matter then and there, but after a few minutes of discussion involving a couple of tellers, was told by a supervisor “move, you’re holding up the line.”
“That I didn’t like,” Goldberg said. “You’d think they’d be more sympathetic to someone who’s banked there over 30 years.”
Not only were his accounts frozen, an automatic action when TD receives a death notice, but all deposits received after the presumed date of death were returned to sender. It took “four to eight” days for TD to reinstate Goldberg’s banking status, but he also had to clarify matters with government agencies and fill out different forms, which caused him stress and nervousness and affected his quality of life, the judge said.
Goldberg told the court it ended up taking about 40 hours of his time over three months to straighten out the problems caused by the bank’s actions.
‘You’d think they’d be more sympathetic to someone who’s banked there over 30 years’
The bank initially offered him $300 for his trouble, which he considered insufficient.
TD admitted the mistake and apologized for it, saying it stemmed from an incorrect spelling of Goldberg’s first name, but maintained in court that it caused him no damage. Judge Vézina concluded otherwise.
“The notice of death received by TD did not concern this Mr. Goldberg but he was the one having to deal with the consequences of the blunder,” she wrote, noting that the bank “failed to verify” available information such as the branch where the account was opened, ages, addresses and social insurance numbers.
“Although the court finds no premeditation or bad faith on the part of TD for the mistake, it notes the lack of verification and the serious consequences for Mr. Goldberg,” the judge said.
Goldberg still maintains an account with the TD branch but has moved “90 per cent” of the assets once there to another institution.