Derek Turner, the former Pannell Kerr Forster partner battling to win placed under the spotlight by the case of a former Pannell’s partner. a health insurance payout of #100,000, has made a final appeal to his old firm.
In a letter to Richard Pearson, the PKF chairman, he calls on PKF to back his fight for compensation after he was forced out of work by the pain of fusing vertebrae in his neck.
So far, the firm has refused to re-examine Turner’s case, saying it was satisfied with the settlement he agreed with the insurers last November.
It has rebuffed Turner’s call for a further review – despite his claim that he was duped into accepting a deal after vital evidence was suppressed.
Turner is pursuing PKF because all other avenues of appeal have been closed off. After five months of campaigning, he was told last week his case could not be re-opened by the two main insurance industry watchdogs.
Both the Personal Investment Authority and the insurance ombudsman said his claim for compensation was under a group policy, which is an unregulated area of financial services. PKF is the holder of the policy.
Seventeen PKF partners were covered by the policy when Turner fell ill in 1995. He was diagnosed with spondilitis, a severe form of arthritis.
PKF’s insurers, Permanent Insurance, were initially sympathetic.
But after several months, it seems the company was concerned his illness was temporary. It employed private detectives to spy on Turner and to secretly video him at home to see if he was faking the extent of his illness.
Turner was shown the videos after he agreed to arbitration as the result of 18 months of fruitless arguing. He was shocked by the company’s activities, but denies the videos revealed he was capable of going back to work. He confessed to playing a little chip-and-putt golf, but this was to keep himself mobile, he says.
The company thought otherwise, and produced a policy clause which stated the policy only applied if he could do ‘no part whatever’ of his work.
Turner agreed, following advice from his lawyers, to take a #100,000 cut in his payout when the arbitration was over.
His campaign to re-open the appeal began almost immediately. He was allowed to read the main medical report for Permanent, which the company’s lawyers said backed its case. But the doctor who wrote the report agreed that Turner was disabled.
The only question unanswered centres on how much work he can undertake.
Turner says he could not meet clients and perform his role as a partner while he is in pain. He can only sit still for a few minutes, he says, and needs to stay mobile.
PKF’s response to the outbreak of hostilities between Turner and Permanent was to demand the return of half the #18,000 legal fees run up during the dispute.
Turner was incensed. He believes Permanent made a mistake when it applied the ‘no part whatever’ clause in his contract. He also believes PKF should be ashamed it signed a permanent health insurance policy with such a clause in the first place.
But PKF has so far refused to give Turner another hearing. Permanent has consistently said it is satisfied that Turner was dealt with fairly.
Turner has given PKF until the end of this week to respond to his claim.
At the moment, the prospect looks doubtful.
A CASE OF DEJA VU?
Derek Turner’s fight for compensation bears more than a passing resemblance to a battle between a former Lloyd’s of London underwriter and major health insurer Unem, heard in the High Court last year.
Underwriter Robert Napier suffered from a nervous condition and successfully applied for permanent health insurance. The company paid out for nine years before it decided Napier had been the ‘worst type of confidence trickster,’ which is not an allegation levelled at Turner, and cut off his payments. In court, Unem said it reserved the right to insist on satisfactory proof of Napier’s disability. Unem said the courts could not interfere in this process. But the judge said Napier only needed to provide reasonable evidence he was unable to perform his job – seen as a declaration of all health insurance consumers’ rights.
Turner, who has been diagnosed as unable to perform his job by three medical specialists, could claim he had provided reasonable evidence, even if it falls short of the evidence demanded by his insurer, Permanent Health Insurance.
Turner said Permanent’s lawyers’ coup de grace was a policy clause, akin to Unem’s stance, which states: ‘… being able to perform no part whatever of the duties of his ordinary occupation.’ Chris Wilkes, insurance specialist at law firm Beachcroft Stanley, said the clause was not unknown but in his opinion was ‘draconian’. The judge in the Unem case ruled Napier’s evidence was sufficient and Unem should pay up.
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