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Remote hearing due to COVID led to prejudice in $25k claim for stolen rings, man argues | The Canberra Times


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A man who made an insurance claim for nearly $25,000 to replace stolen rings said on appeal that a COVID-induced situation meant he was disadvantaged during legal proceedings, according to tribunal documents. In October 2018, three rings belonging to John Smeltink’s wife were stolen from their home. The rings were insured by NRMA, which has admitted liability but disputes the amount to be paid. Mr Smeltink began proceedings in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal against the insurer, from which he tried to claim $24,980, including interest. The figure was based on quotes he obtained from Creations Jewellers of Manuka, where he bought the rings. NRMA offered $15,830 based on quotes it obtained from three other jewellers. The differences in figures arose from their different approaches regarding NRMA’s obligations under its relevant policy to replace (or pay the cost of replacing) the rings with rings of “the same or similar type and quality”. Mr Smeltink argued that NRMA’s quotes were not for the “same or similar type or quality” of rings, because the stolen rings were made by Ben Preston-Black at Creations, and only rings that he designed could meet that type or quality. The original tribunal rejected Mr Smeltink’s arguments, saying the insurance policy “clearly does not say” what he contended. The tribunal said that while Mr Preston-Black was an acclaimed and award-winning designer and maker of jewellery, the markings on the rings were not a registered trademark. It said NRMA’s only obligation was to replace the rings with rings of “the same or similar type and quality”. MORE NEWS: In January, the tribunal ordered NRMA to pay Mr Smeltink $17,148 in settlement of the claim. Mr Smeltink appealed, arguing that NRMA should pay him $23,428, which again was based on quotes from Creations to replace the rings, plus costs and interest. The grounds of appeal included that NRMA should have provided store credits from the original supplier. Another was that the audio quality of the original hearing, conducted online due to COVID, was inadequate and he had difficulty hearing what was said. Mr Smeltink said the matter should have been adjourned until he could present his case in an adequate setting. A further ground was that the tribunal did not correctly interpret the terms of the policy in concluding that NRMA was entitled to engage another jeweller to replace the rings with rings of “the same or similar quality”. The final ground was that the method of manufacture was a material consideration when deciding whether a replacement ring is of the same or similar type or quality. In a recent judgment, the appeal tribunal’s presidential member, Geoff McCarthy, dismissed nearly all of the grounds. He said that while the transcript of the original hearing showed difficulties, the appeal tribunal was not “persuaded that the disadvantages were not remedies as the hearing went along” and that the difficulties did not prejudice the case. For the ground related to the policy interpretation, Mr McCarthy said they were “not persuaded that the original tribunal erred in its conclusion that replacing the stolen rings with rings of ‘similar’ type and quality made by an alternative nominated jeweller would be sufficient to satisfy the cost of replacement option under the policy”. However, he said “we accept that the rings were of significant sentimental value to the appellant and his wife, and we can understand why the appellant therefore wished to have the replacement rings made by the original supplier or be compensated for the cost of it doing so”. As for the final ground, Mr McCarthy said the original tribunal erred when it concluded that NRMA’s quote for one of the rings was based on its method of manufacture. The proposed replacement for that particular ring would have been of lesser quality than the original. The appeal tribunal increased the amount awarded for that ring by $2420 plus interest of about $282, taking the total to $19,850. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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