Ombudsman ruling brings ‘relief and joy’ for widow and twins after insurer said victim did not disclose pins and needles
The family of a man who died of cancer but whose life insurance payout was refused on the grounds that he failed to disclose pins and needles have won their fight against Friends Life, after the financial ombudsman ruled that the insurer was wrong to cancel his policy.
Nic Hughes, 44, a graphic designer and lecturer, died last October from cancer of the gall bladder, leaving his wife Susannah Hancock and eight-year-old twins.
Before he died, he learned that the company had cancelled his critical illness and life insurance policy, arguing that he had failed to disclose other symptoms which it said would have led it to refuse cover.
Hughes had declared that he suffered from ulcerative colitis when applying for the policy, but Friends Life said he had not admitted to suffering from pins and needles, or being asked to reduce his alcohol intake by his doctor – symptoms which his doctors said were unrelated to the cancer.
More than 63,000 people signed an online petition after his death urging the insurer to pay out following an energetic social media campaign supported by Stephen Fry and Miranda Hart, among others.
Hancock appealed to the financial ombudsman who has now ruled that the policy was wrongly cancelled, and Friends Life has agreed to pay the £100,000 claim in full, plus interest.
“While the firm remains of the view that Mr Hughes did not disclose some things at the time of the application,” the ombudsman said in a letter to Hancock, “it accepts that any non-disclosure was not deliberate or relevant to the claim he later made – so the firm accepts it was not entitled to rely on that and it should have paid the critical illness claim when it was submitted.”
Hancock said she and her children were “overwhelmed with relief and joy”, and had danced around their kitchen when they heard.
“It feels like David and Goliath. This is about the common people standing up and saying that they won’t be trampled on by big corporations.”
Kester Brewin, a friend of Hughes who had led the campaign, said: “This is life-changing for that family and a huge vindication of Nic as a person. I watched him dying of cancer, struggling with this company and getting so depressed, when he should have been spending time with his family.” The company had refused to meet Hancock to discuss the claim, he said.
In a statement, Friends Life said: “We committed to abide by [the ombudsman's] decision and, while we continue to have concerns about this case, we are sympathetic to the circumstances of Mr Hughes’ family and believe it would be unfair to prolong the claim process any further.”
It would therefore be paying the claim in full, plus interest, in addition to an ex gratia payment already made, the statement said.
The new Consumer Insurance Act, which came into force earlier this month, requires insurers to ask specific questions about any information that they could use to decline a claim, rather than leaving it to consumers to volunteer potentially unrelated details.
There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.