The High Court has found that controversial earthquake insurer Southern Response behaved deceptively, Stuff.co.nz reports.
The case revolved around Southern Response’s policy of producing two differing detailed repair/rebuild assessments (DRAs) that indicate the costs of repairing or rebuilding a customer’s home.
High Court Justice David Gendall found that Southern Response engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and misrepresented entitlements during a Christchurch earthquake claim for a damaged home – resulting in customers Karl and Alison Dodds receiving much lower insurance payments than they were entitled to.
According to the report, the abridged DRA given to the Dodds indicated lower costs than the office DRA, which contained extra items and was not given to them.
The Dodds reached a settlement with the insurer in December 2013 based only on the abridged DRA, specifying that rebuilding the house would cost the couple only around $895,000.
As the couple were not aware of the office DRA that was around $200,000 higher, the couple chose to buy a new house up to the value of the abridged DRA.
They only found out about the existence of the office DRA years later, making them feel deceived and misled as they planned to rebuild their home if given a bigger claim.
The High Court decided that Southern Response had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct for providing an abridged DRA that made the Dodds think it was the complete rebuild cost. The court ordered the earthquake insurer to pay $178,894, plus interest and costs.
Southern Response insisted that the Dodds were not entitled to some costs indicated in the office DRA as they decided not to rebuild their house anymore.
However, Gendall explained that the insurer “created a false impression” by providing the abridged DRA in a way that it looked like the complete and only estimate - so it was reasonable for the couple to perceive it as such.
“Editing or redacting parts of such an important assessment document, and then suggesting it is the complete and only assessment of total rebuild cost as occurred here, is misleading and deceptive,” said Gendall, as reported by Stuff.co.nz.