Woman succeeds in appeal over claim for late husband's car insurance

By THE STAR | 1 December 2021

A Mazda CX-5 SUV. For illustration purpose only.

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has awarded RM85,000 in a claim filed by a woman against an insurance company over the loss of her late husband's car three years ago.

A three-man panel of the appellate court unanimously ruled that the High Court had erred when it affirmed a magistrate's court's decision that rejected the claim by 38-year-old Loh Swee Liang, who filed the claim together with her father-in-law Tay Boon Hui, 75.

Justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, who chaired the panel, said that based on the circumstances of the case, it was established on the balance of probability that the car, a Mazda CX-5, was stolen and the respondent did not provide evidence to the contrary.

"Therefore, we find the policy is engaged and the respondent is liable to pay the agreed insured value.

"We allow the appeal and set aside the High Court order dated Feb 19 which affirmed the decision by the Magistrate's Court. We allow the appellants' claim as prayed for in the statement of claim," he said in a Zoom proceeding here today.

The court also awarded the appellants RM30,000 in costs.

Other judges on the panel were Justices S. Nantha Balan and Darryl Goon Siew Chye.

Earlier, the court heard from Loh's lawyer James Ee that his client was not with her husband when he drove the car on July 3, 2018.

"In no way would she have known the whereabouts of the car. The grounds for this repudiation are unprecedented. If their (High Court and Magistrate's Court) decisions are not reversed, this sets a precedent in the insurance industry and nobody will be able to make this (theft) insurance claim," Ee said.

Meanwhile, lawyer Datuk SS Gill argued that the appellants had only pleaded that the car was missing and not stolen.

Loh and Boon Hui were appealing the lower courts' decisions that dismissed their claim against AmGeneral Insurance Bhd.

The legal action was initiated in October 2019 after Loh failed to get compensation for the vehicle, which went missing around the time of her husband's death.

According to court documents, Loh's husband, Tay Guan Song, 37, drove the car to clean a condominium that was left vacant and passed away at the unit from coronary artery disease.

Loh only realised the car was missing after her husband's burial.

The court also heard that Loh's insurance claim on the missing vehicle was repudiated by the company on the grounds that the loss of the vehicle did not fall within the ambit of theft.

In the repudiation letter, the insurance company said Loh had no knowledge of the vehicle's whereabouts and did not witness the loss as the vehicle appeared to be lost after the demise of the insured (Guan Song).

In its statement of defence, the company stated that Loh and Boon Hui had failed to provide evidence that the theft of the vehicle was a risk or event covered under the policy.

It said it was not obligated under the policy to compensate as there was no evidence that the theft was protected by the policy.

It also said that Loh's delay in reporting the incident to the company had prejudiced its rights to do a preliminary investigation of her claims.