The Judge Decided

The Facts

The Plaintiff applied to Suncorp Life and Insurance for Total and Permanent Disability Insurance of $500,000.00. As part of the process she was required to submit to a medical examination and to complete a questionnaire which included questions about her past medical history. Suncorp accepted the Plaintiff’s policy of insurance.

About two weeks later the Plaintiff suffered a psychotic episode and was eventually declared to be totally and permanently disabled, unable to continue working. The Plaintiff then made a claim for payment under her TPD policy.  Suncorp rejected the Plaintiff’s claim and cancelled her policy on the basis that had she disclosed details of her past medical history, they would have either refused to insure her, or at the least have had a closer look before deciding to accept her risk. 

The Decision

During the course of processing her claim the insurer learnt that the Plaintiff had psychological problems in the past that she failed to disclosed. Suncorp’s argument was that had Ms Dew disclosed this information they would not have accepted her claim or at the very least they would have more closely scrutinised the Plaintiff and her past medical history before making any decision. 

Ms Dew argued that the nature of her past history was minor and would not be relevant or of any interest to the insurer.  

The Judge agreed with Ms Dew, finding that on each occasion she consulted her medical practitioners she appeared to have recovered completely from intermittent episodes of stress and the treatment she received was “non-specific”. In the Judge’s view a reasonable person in the circumstances of the Plaintiff would not have regarded those past symptoms as being relevant to disclose. The Plaintiff’s failure to disclose stemmed from her genuine belief that her past symptoms did not mean she had a material injury or illness.  The Judge awarded the Plaintiff damages in the sum of $520,000.00 plus interest of approximately $130,000.00 calculated from the date when the insurer should have paid her under the policy approximately three years earlier.

Dew v. Suncorp Life and Insurance Limited [2001] QSC 252


Areas of Law

Personal Injury Law

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