Bill after insurer blames God

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 22/09/2012
Hayden Nelson
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

POTENTIALLY DEADLY: Hayden Nelson was lucky he was not in his car when a window of the Amora Hotel in Wellington fell on it in a gale. The hotel’s insurance broker is calling it an act of God.

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A hotel refused to compensate a Wellington man after a window blew out in high winds and damaged his car because its insurance broker says it is an act of God.

Hayden Nelson has been left with a gashed and gouged car he can't drive as he wrangles with the hotel over liability.

The 23-year-old first year teacher is facing the prospect of big bills to fix his car after a window of the Amora Hotel fell on it.

Mr Nelson's parents were staying at the hotel and he was having breakfast with them in its restaurant on September 8 when gales hit Wellington.

Minutes before he and his brother were about to leave the hotel, his mother told him a window had blown out and landed on a car outside. It was his 2000 Nissan Pulsar.

It was lucky he and his brother weren't outside at the time, he said.

"Give or take a couple of minutes, we were heading home . . . the shards [of glass] went right across the other side of the road."

The window cracked his windscreen, blew out a side window and left numerous gashes to the body work, leaving it undriveable until the windscreen is fixed, and in need of expensive bodywork.

His third party insurance would not cover damage to his car.

At the time, hotel staff said their insurance would cover it, so he wasn't too concerned, he said.

However, the next week the hotel told him its insurance broker had informed them it was not liable and there would be no payment.

"I was a little bit dumbfounded, to be honest. Because on the day the manager said: ‘Our insurance will cover this, don't worry we'll clean your car up for you'."

An email to Mr Nelson from Aon Insurance Brokers said the hotel was not considered liable for the damage.

"This occurred due to a storm event, our client has not been negligent in any way nor have they done anything to cause the damage, unfortunately this has occurred in extremely high winds that are beyond our client's control. Unfortunately this is classified as ‘an act of God' for which our client is not responsible for."

After he questioned that decision further, the broker agreed to review the matter with the provider Chartis Insurance.

A Chartis spokeswoman yesterday said the matter was still considered an open claim.

"The claims team are getting further evidence on the third party liability of the hotel."

They hoped to have an outcome in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Nelson said even if it was an act of god, the hotel should take responsibility.

"I just thought it's common sense if your building falls apart."

Hotel manager Liam Craughwell said he could not comment until the insurance investigation was complete.

"We can't accept any liability and we have passed it to our insurance company. That's why we have insurance."

Consumer New Zealand adviser Maggie Edwards said she was surprised at the hotel's response, given Mr Nelson was a customer at the hotel at the time.

"There's no denying that the hotel has wrecked his car or caused damage."

Given the hotel's good reputation, it should be taking steps to repair the damage, she said.

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Insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan said "act of God" was a term for any natural event that could not be avoided.

- The Dominion Post

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