The widow of a popular Kalgoorlie-Boulder boilermaker and horse trainer who died last year after collapsing at Kalgoorlie-Boulder Racing Club’s stables has been left heartbroken after learning her husband’s life insurance policies will not be paid out.
Pensioner Christine Brown, who turned 66 in November and has been left with an estimated $150,000 mortgage, said she may be forced to sell her Hannans home after claims on two separate policies taken out with Westpac and Combined Insurance by her late husband, Robert, were knocked back.
Mr Brown, whose crowning achievements included winning the Boulder Cup in 1972 with Pomme D’Or, was tending to his horses at the stables on the afternoon of July 11, 2016, when he collapsed after suffering a brain stem stroke.
He was taken to Kalgoorlie Hospital for emergency treatment and later flown to Perth, where Mr Brown, 66, was declared dead at Royal Perth Hospital four days later.
However, Mrs Brown believed an accident at the round yard at the stables two weeks before Mr Brown’s death, in which she said he became tangled in his horse reins and fell backwards, sustaining a blow to his head, could have contributed to his death.
Mrs Brown informed the coroner about her husband’s fall in the round yard.
After the fall, she said, the normally fit Robert was unwell and suffered regular headaches, but neither the coroner’s report, nor medical records from the time, acknowledged the incident played a role in Mr Brown’s death.
The coroner’s findings, dated September 27 this year, ruled the death was by way of natural causes, triggering Combined Insurance to tell Mrs Brown on October 10 it would not pay out the $120,000 accidental death policy, which she said was taken out to comply with her husband’s trainer’s licence requirements.
Mrs Brown said Westpac’s decision not to pay out a separate $100,000 accidental death policy the couple took out in August, 2000, a year before they married, was also devastating.
She maintains that for more than 15 years, they thought it was for general life insurance, not accidental death insurance.
According to Westpac, it covered accidental death only, meaning the bank would not pay in the event of a death by natural causes.
The position was supported by a report by Financial Ombudsman Services Australia dated March 27, which ruled regular renewal notices sent to the couple since the policy was signed established that it was for accidental death only and they would have been aware of that fact.
While she believes she has little chance of winning her dispute, Mrs Brown wants other people to be aware of the fine details of their life insurance.
“Make sure when you’re getting into an insurance policy, to make sure that you know whether it’s an accident(al) death or it’s a life insurance,” she said.
“You’re paying out money that your husband is working his guts out for or your wife is working her guts out for, thinking that you’re going to be covered through an insurance policy. You work that out for 17 years, paying into a policy, and then you find out that it’s worthless, just worthless.”
A Westpac spokesman said the bank did not normally comment on specific cases, but noted the ombudsman’s finding.
“We note the ombudsman has reviewed this matter and has found in our favour saying that Westpac ‘was entitled to deny the claim’,” he said.
“We are always happy to look at additional information in support of the claim should it be provided.”
The past year had been a “nightmare”, the mother and grandmother said.
“To talk about Robert’s passing again and again and again there’s no compassion with insurance policies,” she said.
“You’re thinking you’re going to get paid out this policy, so you can at least get out of debt. It’s not fair on my kids or on Robert’s kids that in the end, when you die, you’re going to leave them nothing. I’m not going to lose this house.”
A Combined Insurance spokesperson could not respond before The Miner went to print yesterday.
Source: Josh Chiat - The Miner, WA Thursday, 26 October 2017