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Dispute over $2 mill life policy heads back to court

A protracted legal battle over AXA's refusal to pay out on the life insurance policy of a murdered Bangladeshi migrant is heading back to court after the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court's summary judgment against payment.

Wednesday, December 21st 2016, 6:00AM

by Owen Poland

The dispute relates to a $2 million dollar life policy which Abdur Miah and his wife Afrouza took out with AXA 11 months before Mrs Miah, who was a New Zealand citizen, was murdered by her brother-in-law during a visit to Bangladesh in May 2007.

Mr Miah was acquitted of any involvement in the crime, however because he was bankrupted a month prior to his wife's death AXA refused to pay his insurance claim on the grounds of material non-disclosure of his financial difficulties.

Legal action followed, but when Mr Miah's suit against AXA came before the High Court in 2015, Associate Judge Doogue granted AXA's application for summary judgement to strike the matter out on the basis that there was no seriously arguable claim.

The strike out decision was subsequently challenged in the Court of Appeal where Mr Miah successfully argued that, as the executor of his wife's will, he had a valid claim to her half of the policy.

In its recently released judgement, the Court of Appeal says that under High Court rules the discretion to enter summary judgement can only be invoked if the defendant (AXA) satisfies the Court that "none of the causes of action in the plaintiffs statement of claim can succeed". As such, the matter should not have been struck out because it is arguable that at the time of her death Mrs Miah's estate had an interest in the policy.

We disagree with Associate Judge Doogue when he concludes that the policy "does not contain any express provision prescribing to whom payment is to be made on the occurrence of the death of the life insured: It did contain an express provision; there was to be payment to the two named owners jointly.

In granting Mr Miah's appeal, the Court of Appeal also rejected AXA's argument that Mr Miah's claim was an abuse of process and says that final resolution of the insurance policy's interpretation must await trial in the High Court at a date to be set.

Footnote: AXA is described as the 'defendant' as it issued the life policy and it is constantly referred to in the judgment, though the actual Respondent is the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia Limited. AMP bought the AXA life insurance business in 2011.

Tags: AMP Life insurance

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