Tuesday 20 March 2018

Insurance firm stops making payments to retired school teacher suffering form Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, court hears

The High Court, Dublin
The High Court, Dublin

Aodhan O Faolain

An insurance company stopped making payments to a retired secondary school teacher, who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, because she refused to undergo a test it had requested, the High Court has heard.

Bridget Majella Daly has brought proceedings against Zurich Life Assurance  over the insurer's decision to cease paying her a disability allowance she claims she is entitled to. 

The 48 year old mother of three of The Chase, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, has suffered from a condition known as ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for many years and has been deemed medically unable to work by the Dept of Education.

Ms Daly says that through the ASTI she signed up to a salary protection scheme with Zurich who ceased paying her benefits in April last and informed her that her case was under review. 

As a result she decided to sue Zurich. Last week Ms Daly brought High Court proceedings against the insurer claiming she and her children were "spied on" and placed under surveillance by a private investigator because she sued Zurich.

The Court granted Ms Daly's lawyers permission to serve short notice of the proceedings on Zurich Life Assurance Plc. 

She seeks injunctions directing Zurich to pay her disability benefit under the Salary Protection Scheme. 

She also seeks orders restraining the defendant and all persons who have knowledge of the order from carrying out any surveillance of her and her children, and that any images be handed over.   

The matter returned before Ms Justice Miriam O Regan at Tuesday's vacation sitting of the High Court.

Barrister Barney Quirke Bl for Zurich told the court that the insurer stopped the payment because Zurich wants her to undergo a test called  a 'Functional Capacity Evaluation.' She had declined to take this test and Zurich stopped the payment under the scheme which it is entitled to do.

Counsel asked the court to adjourn the matter for a number of weeks so it could fully address Ms Daly's claim. Counsel said it was consenting to an expedited hearing of Ms Daly's claim concerning the payment, but did not see the urgency of the injunction application.

Rory de Bruir, instructed by Burns Nowlan solicitors, for Ms Daly, objected to any lengthy adjournment. He said the test Ms Daly was asked to take had previously been found by the High Court as not being a medical diagnostic test.

There were six independent medical reports that show Ms Daly cannot work and she has been retired by the Department of Education on health grounds.

Ms Justice O'Regan adjourned Ms Daly's application for injunctions against Zurich to next Wednesday's sitting of the court. 

Previously the court heard Ms Daly was followed while driving one of her children to school, was photographed or filmed by a man while walking  in a park on another occasion , and also saw a car drive past her home slowly.

The court heard that following a complaint Zurich's lawyer's informed Ms Daly's solicitors Burns Nowlan it would discontinue the surveillance. Ms Daly says the surveillance was "designed to intimidate me" and fears that it may resume.

Counsel said his client was distressed and upset over what has happened to her. Zurich also said Ms Daly had signed a clause in the policy allowing it to investigate claims.

Ms Daly said in her sworn statement that the dispute should be determined through "medical evaluation" and "not by people spying on me and my family."

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