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IAG wins court fight over factory fire

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IAG has successfully defended court action over a declined multi-million dollar claim after it argued that a massive fire at a Queensland bedding factory was started deliberately.

Cassa Bedding Pty Ltd claimed on its policy following the August 2015 blaze at its leased factory premises at Yeerongpilly.

The factory burnt to the ground and all contents, including Cassa’s equipment, manufacturing supplies and completed stock, were incinerated.

But after a lengthy investigation IAG refused to pay the claim, saying the fire had been deliberately started by Cassa’s sole director John Cassimatis, and the policy excluded such circumstances. 

Cassa launched legal action claiming damages for breach of the policy.

It argued the proposition that Mr Cassimatis “sought to benefit by destroying a profit-generating business was inherently improbable and should be rejected”.

Mr Cassimatis has consistently denied any involvement in starting the fire and, despite police and fire service investigations, nobody has been charged with any criminal offence in relation to the blaze.

But Justice Martin Burns at the Supreme Court of Queensland ruled this week in favour of IAG.

IAG claimed Mr Cassimatis had a financial motive for burning down the factory and claiming on the insurance policy, however Justice Burns concluded this was “not satisfactorily proved”.

But CCTV had recorded Mr Cassimatis leaving the factory shortly before the fire was first spotted by a passer-by. His car’s lights were also turned off at certain points.

Mr Cassimatis said he turned the lights off and on and accelerated because he was engaging in "vehicle diagnostics" after a warning light about traction control appeared on his dashboard.

But Justice Burns dismissed the explanation as “fanciful”.

“Mr Cassimatis was alone in the factory at the time when the fires were set,” he said.

“I am satisfied that he was the only person with the opportunity to access the skip through the adjacent door, return inside, light the fire or fires inside, set the alarm, secure the building and then make good that escape.

“After doing so, Mr Cassimatis endeavoured to avoid detection by switching off the headlights to his vehicle at different times and lying to investigators about the time he left the factory.

“On the whole of the evidence I am satisfied that [IAG] has proved to the standard required that Mr Cassimatis was the perpetrator. That is the only reasonable and definite inference available on the proven facts.”

Cassa’s claim was dismissed and judgment entered for IAG, with costs.

Click here to see the full court ruling.