PKF in payout row

Pannell Kerr Forster came under fire this week from a former partner who claimed the firm had paid huge premiums for an ‘almost worthless’ health insurance plan.

Derek Turner, who was until two years ago a partner in the firm’s Worcester office, said he had been abandoned by the firm and left to claim income support benefits and seriously consider selling his house after he fell ill.

Turner has issued a formal complaint against PKF Financial Services, which negotiated the health plan. He has also appealed to the insurance ombudsman claiming that Permanent Insurance, the subsidiary of Equitable Life that ran the policy, had pressurised him into accepting a payout worth half the sum he believed he was due under the policy.

Mick Maton, managing partner of PKF’s Worcester office, said he regretted Turner had failed to reach an agreement with the insurers. But he rejected accusations that he had failed to support Turner during his dispute. ‘Over the period we have been very supportive and we have dealt fairly with him throughout.’

Turner said the firm had refused to hand over the original insurance documents during his dispute with the insurer and then demanded he repay half the #20,000 legal fees after his settlement, which amounted to #100,000 for the last five years of his working life.

Andrew Chapman, managing director of Permanent Insurance, said: ‘We have a settlement with PKF that was reached amicably.’

Turner was diagnosed with spondylitis, a severe form of arthritis, by a neurological specialist in Oxford in the spring of 1995. The illness causes the vertebra in his spine to fuse, leading to intense headaches and pains in his back.

Two more specialists supported the diagnosis and said he was unfit for work. But the health policy applied only when ‘an insured person because of sickness or accident being able to perform no part whatever of the duties of his ordinary occupation, and not following any other gainful occupation’.

Turner said: ‘My solicitor said this clause would be used to show that even if I could perform the smallest book-keeping tasks I would be deemed fit to carry on work as an accountant.’

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