Brought to you by:

Claimant loses dispute over $45,000 African clothes

A complainant who sought cover for $45,000 worth of cultural African clothing that he says was damaged by a storm has lost his claims dispute against his insurer. 

The insured lodged the claim for contents a few days after his apartment was flooded by storm water on March 2 last year.

Suncorp accepted the claim for some of the damaged items, worth about $21,914, but a dispute arose after it declined cover for the clothing, which the claimant alleged had been damaged by the storm. 

The insurer responded to the man’s initial claim lodgement by informing him that the claim would be delayed. It advised him to take photographs of all the damaged contents and not to dispose of any items.

On March 25, the complainant told Suncorp that the clothing had started to mould, and he intended to throw them away. The insurer arranged for a restorer to attend the property, but the complainant denied access to them. 

Suncorp repeated the importance of photographing the damaged clothing. However, when the insurer’s assessor attended the apartment on June 28, the complainant had discarded the clothes. 

The policyholder did provide the insurer with documents from a clothing seller in Africa relating to the sale of the items between 2001 and 2022, as well as photographs of his family wearing the items.

But Suncorp highlights that the man had not provided imagery of the clothing after it was allegedly damaged by the storm, despite its requests, or information to indicate that it had a value of $45,000.

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) agreed with the insurer’s decision, acknowledging that the claimant had not provided persuasive information to support his claim. 

AFCA accepted that the insured had been clearly advised to photograph the items before discarding them. It also says that the documents provided were not an invoice or proof of purchase and questioned the relevance of many images the complainant supplied.

“While I appreciate the loss of his clothing is upsetting for the complainant, the outcome is fair as the complainant has not provided any information to show the storm damaged the clothes,” AFCA said.

“The complainant was given very clear advice by the insurer that this was needed for his claim to be accepted while he still had the damaged clothes in his possession.

“It would be unfair to require the insurer to cover these high value items where no evidence of the loss and no compelling evidence of ownership has been provided by the complainant.”

Click here for the ruling.