Irish Times 27.06.2014

The president of the High Court has urged financial organisations to show “empathy and understanding” in dealing with critical illness insurance claims.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said it should not be “impossible” for financial organisations to show empathy and understanding in situations such as where a man diagnosed with cardiomyopathy got no payment from his insurer despite having critical illness cover for conditions including heart attack and stroke.

He said it seemed to him “justice would warrant a restitution” of some degree of the payments made by Philomena and Thomas Geoghegan, “hard-working” people, over 11 years under their joint policy taken out with Progressive Life Assurance in 1998.

After the judge’s remarks, counsel for the company, now Irish Life Assurance plc, said the claim is a reinsured one and he wanted time to take instructions from a reinsurer based overseas.

Mis-selling

In exchanges with counsel, the judge stressed he was not implying any mis-selling but rather perhaps an unconscionable bargain. He did not believe it was impossible for financial organisations to show understanding and empathy in this kind of situation, the judge added. In those circumstances, the judge told Mrs Geoghegan, representing herself, he was adjourning her proceedings in which she was challenging the Financial Services Ombudsman’s rejection of her complaint arising from the refusal of the insurer to pay out. The ombudsman denies her claims and also says she is relying on materials not put before him when he was dealing with the complaint. The matter will return to court in three weeks. 

Mortgage

In an affidavit and letters, Mrs Geoghegan, a carer, of Ring, Tyrrellspass, Co Westmeath, said she and her husband sought a mortgage in May 1998 to build a house and part of the process involved a representative for Progressive Life Assurance coming out to their mobile home.

She said life cover began in June 1998 and illness and life cover began in July 1999. Their house was built in December 1999, she added. The insurance plan was paid up to date when she put in a claim for her husband to Irish Life after he became ill in late 1998 and was unable to work. He was later diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.

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