An insurance company refused to pay out for a fire that destroyed a Byron Bay office block because a bikie club used it as their headquarters.
No one knows what caused the fire that engulfed the block of four industrial office units at Brigantine St, Byron Bay, on February 3, 2014.
But when the strata committee put a claim in with W. R Berkley Insurance (Europe) it sparked a legal battle in the NSW District Court, which last month ruled the insurance company does not have to pay.
The key issue in the case is whether the broker from the unit block’s strata committee told the insurer that one of the units was the headquarters for a bikie club.
The motorcycle club was the North Coast chapter of the Nomads, the club previously headed by Sam Ibrahim — the younger brother of Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim.
And it turns out that with bikies having a long history of firebombing each other’s club houses, the insurer wasn’t keen to pay up for the damage.
Lawyers for the insurance company told Judge Alister Abadee that a broker for owners failed to tell the company that the Nomads were one of the occupants.
In his judgment, Judge Abadee ruled that the broker most likely mentioned that one of the occupants was a “social club” or a “local bike club”, but not the Nomads, which qualifies by government as an “outlaw motorcycle gang”.
After the fire, the building’s owners lodged an insurance claim that would have paid out almost $750,000.
But when W. R. Berkley became aware of the fact that the Nomads North Coast president Darrin Field had owned one of the units since 2008 and used it as the chapter’s clubhouse, the company refused to pay.
The strata body launched legal action against the insurance company in the NSW District Civil Court.
But Judge Abadee rejected the case and found that the Nomads’ occupation of the building to be “ relevant to the decision of the Insurer to accept the risk and therefore required disclosure.”
The judge also found that the non disclosure of Nomads clubhouse “ entitled the Insurer to avoid the policy and reduce its liability to nil.”
Had the strata case been successful, the claim against the insurer would have been for $748,571, the court heard.
However, the strata did have a partial win in the cross claim against its insurance broker, HHIA Pty Ltd and its director, David Hynes.
Judge Abadee found that Mr Hynes was negligent in not communicating to the insurance company that the Nomads were an occupant of the building.
The judge found Mr Hynes and the company were “liable in damages only in respect of the consequences of” the strata “not having an enforceable policy, so that the quantum of such claim is $538,347.41.”
The matter returns to court on January 22.
Source: The Daily Telegraph