Sunday 17 December 2017

Garda investigation into life insurance polices worth €2.2m taken out on woman who died in drowning tragedy in India

Garda investigation into life insurance polices worth €2.2m taken out on woman who died in drowning tragedy in India
Garda investigation into life insurance polices worth €2.2m taken out on woman who died in drowning tragedy in India

Tim Healy

A GARDA investigation is underway in relation to life insurance policies worth €2.2m taken out on a woman who died in a tragic drowning accident in India last year, the Commercial Court heard.

Two insurance companies are refusing to pay out €1m on policies which the widower of the woman is claiming because of the garda investigation into alleged fraud when the policies were taken out and because of the likelihood of the re-activation of the Indian police investigation into her death.

Madhava Reddy Gogireddy, a manufacturing operator from Carpenterstown Road, Castleknock, Dublin, is suing Friends First Assurance Company and Irish Life Assurance, with which he had policies for his wife, Indira Suram. Each policy was for €500,000.

She died following a drowning accident while swimming at the Royal Rivea Resort, Cyberabad, India, on May 14, 2014.

Both companies claim the two policies, along with two others for €1.2m with two other insurers, were taken out by Mr Reddy Gogireddy over a relatively short period of time between October and December 2006.

They also claim he did not disclose the fact that he had policies with other companies.

Mr Reddy Gogireddy, a father of two, has also submitted claims under the two other policies which are with New Ireland Assurance and Aviva Life and Pensions, worth €700,000 and €500,000 respectively.

In an affidavit, he says he understands all four insurance companies engaged a representative to travel to India to further investigate the circumstances of his wife's death. His parents-in-law were interviewed and he was also "rigorously interviewed" by a claims agent.

He says "absolutely no explanation or rationale" was given to him as to why his claims against Friends First and Irish Life has not been dealt with. He is, as a result, subject to financial constraints in circumstances where he is trying to maintain his employment and also care for this two children, aged three and five years of age.

He brought legal proceedings against Friends First and Irish Life and earlier today sought to have them entered into the High Court's fast-track Commercial Court list.

However, Mr Justice Brian McGovern refused to admit the cases following objections from lawyers on behalf of the two insurers.

In an affidavit, Irish Life technical claims manager Jimmy Disney said the claims investigator who travelled to India to inquire into the death spoke with the local investigating policeman who told him he had been the only officer on duty at the time of the drowning incident.

The officer accepted the investigation into the incident had been minimal and was essentially based on what Mr Reddy Gogireddy had told him, Mr Disney said.

A senior officer at the local police station said he believed the matter should be re-investigated but suggested there should be a request through the Irish Embassy, Mr Disney said.

Friends First separately made a report to the gardai in relation to the circumstances of him taking out the policy and as a result an investigation has been started into possible fraud offences, Mr Disney said.

Lawyers for both Friends First and Irish Life, in objecting to the case being admitted to the Commercial Court, told Mr Justice McGovern the garda and Indian investigations should be first allowed run their course.

They also argued that they were two separate claims and did not meet the €1m threshold for admission of cases to the commercial list.

Counsel for Mr Reddy Gogireddy said there was precedent for consolidating claims so that they could be dealt with together in the Commercial Court.

The main objection of the companies was that this was not a business dispute but Mr Reddy Gogireddy was in fact seeking specific performance of  business documents, namely life insurance policies, counsel said.

The companies had not previously raised the issue of police investigations despite the fact that it was 13 months since this accident, counsel added.

Mr Justice McGovern said he was exercising his discretion not to admit the case to the Commercial Court which means it will now go through the normal High Court list.

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