Family loses dispute over ‘intentional’ property fire – Daily – Insurance News

Homeowners who sought compensation following a series of fires at their property have lost their claims dispute after an Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) ruling determined that the most serious blaze was likely intentionally lit by one of the inhabitants.

The complainants lodged a claim for property damage on June 9 last year, a few days after the incidents.

The first four fires only affected content items, including TVs, carpet and bedding, which were not covered by the family’s home building policy. The claimed damage occurred during a fifth fire in the master bedroom, which was occupied by the claimants’ son and his wife, referred to as T.

The family had been the sole occupants at the time of the fire and were the only people that had access to the home. The police said there was no evidence to show that a break-in occurred.

QBE said its policy held exclusions for “deliberate acts” committed by policyholders or someone else who resided at the property, and declined the claim.

The insurer relied on a report from a forensic fire investigator, which refuted the complainant’s contention that an electrical fault had caused the fires, saying there had been “no evidence to suggest” this was the case.

The report highlighted that the fire for the claimed event had two distinct areas of origin, which “were the result of intentional application of a naked flame or similar onto a readily combustible material”.

The insurer provided accounts from the police that supported the report’s assessment that the fire had been deliberately lit.

On the same day that the claim was lodged, the police arrested the son and his wife. The police ruled out the son as a possible person of interest but extensively interviewed T before releasing her while it awaited further investigations.

A week after the fire, T returned to her home country and has not returned to Australia. The panel heard that the complainants were aware of her intentions to leave and aided her by confirming with lawyers and the police that she could leave the country.

The complainants argued that they did not cause the blaze, saying there had been no witnesses observing T lighting the fire and noted that the police did not charge any of them over the incident.

The panel ruled that the insurer was entitled to decline the claim, saying that it was “more likely than not” that someone in the house deliberately lit the fire.

“The available information establishes on the balance of probabilities that the fire was deliberately lit by T,” AFCA said.

“Even if it was not T, it was more probable than not that it was another member of the family as the property was locked, there were no visitors and no evidence of a break-in.”

The panel rejected the complainant’s submission that T had a mental illness and that she was not responsible for her actions and could not have committed an intentional act, saying there was no medical information to support the claim.

As a gesture of goodwill, QBE offered to pay the family $2500 and provide them temporary accommodation with estimated costs of $18,000. The panel supported the insurer’s decision.

Click here for the ruling.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *