FBD acted after anonymous call, court told

Confidential agreement reached between couple and insurance firm

President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns: told yesterday a confidential agreement had been reached with FBD Insurances on a payout to retired teachers, Tom and Mary Burke, in settlement of their legal proceedings. Photograph: Alan Betson

President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns: told yesterday a confidential agreement had been reached with FBD Insurances on a payout to retired teachers, Tom and Mary Burke, in settlement of their legal proceedings. Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, May 15, 2013, 01:00

An anonymous call and letter giving false information had led to an insurance company refusing to pay out an €742,000 claim over a fire which had destroyed a retired couple’s home almost four years ago, the High Court has heard.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, was told yesterday a confidential agreement had been reached with FBD Insurances on a payout to retired teachers, Tom and Mary Burke, in settlement of their legal proceedings.

FBD had admitted that claims made in an anonymous letter and call that Mr Burke himself started the fire were totally unfounded. The couple had sued FBD over alleged negligence and breach of duty by FBD arising from the fire, which broke out on June 22nd 2009, at the Burke’s home, Castle House, Lagavooren, Drogheda, Co Meath.

David Hardiman SC, for the couple, said the “scurrilous” anonymous call and letter was used by FBD to lend credence to the false report against the Burkes and to allow the company deny liability for their claim. The firm also claimed that fire was not a risk covered by their policy when such a claim was “an absurdity”.

FBD had also suggested the couple had failed to disclose “excessive hoarding and clutter” in the house when his clients were both retired teachers “with lots of books”, counsel said.

After strenuous complaints to FBD by Mr Burke, the company eventually agreed the allegations were “totally unfounded” and said it hoped to be able to agree a figure for their claim in the near future. However, it was claimed, while €20,000 was paid out on account in August 2009, the bulk of their €742,000 claims was not paid.

Rented accommodation
The Burkes had to live in rented accommodation for a time before they decided to buy another house in Drogheda in 2012, Mr Hardiman said.

He said FBD had set a value of about €433,000 on the claim but did not go through the “nitty gritty” of it and the couple’s assessors had provided an item-by-item account of losses. Counsel for FBD disputed this and claimed the Burke side had refused to engage with their assessor.

After talks between the sides, Mr Hardiman told the judge the claim had been settled and the matter could be struck out with costs to his clients. No details were revealed.