Brendon had been on holiday, and was waiting in Auckland Airport for his domestic flight home to New Plymouth. Unfortunately, all flights had been disrupted by fog and Brendon’s flight was delayed, so he went to buy something to eat. As the airport and restaurant were busy due to the disruptions, Brendon placed his suitcase near the counter while he stood in line to order food and drink. When Brendon went to retrieve his suitcase after purchasing his food, the suitcase was gone.
Brendon contacted his travel insurance company, Lost My Bag Insurance (LMB), and claimed for the items in his suitcase, being:
- Spectacles – $1015
- Samsung Notebook – $1458
- Lumix Camera – $699
- iPhone 5s – $900
- Clothing – $500
The claim totalled $4572.
LMB declined Brendon’s claim because he had left his suitcase unattended in a public place. LMB also said that by leaving expensive pocket-sized items in the suitcase he failed to take reasonable precautions to protect his property, a requirement under the policy.
Brendon did not agree with LMB’s decision. Brendon said he had no other option but to leave the suitcase 8 or 9 feet away from him because he did not have a spare hand to manage his suitcase. Brendon also said he could not have mitigated the risk by removing the expensive items before leaving the suitcase, because he would still have had to put the items down in order to carry his food to a table.
LMB’s policy provided cover for stolen luggage, however the policy excluded cover if luggage was left unattended in a public place. When assessing the merits of a case we must give fair regard to the terms of the insurance policy. We considered the restaurant was a ‘public place’, and the suitcase had been left ‘unattended’ because it could be taken without Brendon realising.
We appreciated Brendon felt he had no alternative but to set the suitcase down while he waited in line to order food, however by doing so he allowed the suitcase to be taken without his knowledge, and failed to take reasonable care.
We found LMB was entitled to decline Brendon’s claim on the grounds that his suitcase was left unattended in a public place. We recommended Brendon discontinue his complaint. Although Brendon was disappointed, he accepted our decision.
It is important to be familiar with the wording of your travel insurance policy, and in particular, any exclusions. Travel insurance does not give the insured absolute cover – when travelling you are still expected to take reasonable care to protect your belongings and minimise risk.