Barnaby was sitting at a table outside a group of bars in Chiang Mai. Barnaby needed to relieve himself and went to the rest rooms which were situated around the corner from the table he had been sitting at. When Barnaby returned to the table, after 2 or 3 minutes, his laptop was gone. Barnaby asked around to see if anyone had seen anything, but this was to no avail. Barnaby asked the staff at the bar who explained that the table he had been sitting at was not part of the bar and there were no cameras on that area. Barnaby reported his loss to the police and submitted a claim to the insurance company for the value of the laptop, $2,157.96.
The insurance company declined the claim citing the exclusion clause in the policy for unattended baggage. The insurance company also said that by leaving expensive items out in the open where Barnaby’s livelihood is dependent on the item, he failed to take reasonable precautions to protect his property, a requirement under the policy.
Barnaby complained to FSCL.
The insurance company’s policy provided cover for stolen items, however the policy excluded cover if the items were 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 area where Barnaby was seated was a ‘public place’, and the laptop had been left ‘unattended’ because it could be taken without Barnaby realising.
We appreciated that Barnaby needed to relieve himself, however by doing so without having regard for his possessions, he allowed the laptop to be taken without his knowledge, and failed to take reasonable care.
We found that the insurance company was entitled to decline Barnaby’s claim on the grounds that his laptop was left unattended in a public place. We recommended Barnaby discontinue his complaint.
Barnaby’s father, Alfred, was not happy with the decision that was reached following our investigation and submitted further information. Alfred contended that at no time was the laptop left unattended and that Barnaby had his eye on the laptop at all times. Alfred further noted that as the place was crowded, and despite Barnaby’s best efforts to keep the laptop in sight at all times and covering it so as not to be a temptation, it was stolen.
We explained to Alfred that this new account of how the loss came about differed from the original account that Barnaby provided with the claim, and that was evidenced in the police report. Even if we could consider the new account, the claim would still be declined due to the laptop being left unattended in a public place because of the specific definitions of these words in the policy.
Although Barnaby and Alfred were disappointed, they 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.