Fishy tale sinks insurance claim

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Durban - A fraudulent insurance claim for R4 500 for a water-damaged cellphone has cost a Durban businessman dearly.

Not only has a Durban High Court judge now repudiated his entire claim of R320 000 for losses he allegedly incurred in an armed robbery at his Bakerville, Newlands, home more than six years ago, but he will also have to pay the substantial legal costs of his insurers, New National Assurance, on a “punitive” scale.

A recent judgment by Judge Mohini Moodley reveals how PK Harikasun dug himself deep in quicksand as he battled to explain his claim for the Sony Ericcson phone which, on his version, had been water-damaged but had been repaired before it was stolen.

His credibility, the judge said, was “seriously undermined” from the beginning by his evidence of how the phone was damaged when he went into the water at Addington Beach during a sardine run, with the phone in his back pocket, and “got out happily with the sardines”, pulling out his phone to call his uncle to “come and join the fun”.

It was February, he claimed.

Not possible, the judge said. The sardine run is in winter.

He then alleged the fish were mackerel.

The judge said while she was no fisherman, she had never heard of a mackerel run, although she was familiar with the saying “to throw a sprat to catch to a mackerel”.

And this too turned into a “red herring” because according to the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative, local mackerel are linefish and his explanation that he was “gathering armfuls” was a “ludicrous lie”, she said.

Harikasun says the damaged phone lay around in his boot for about a year before he gave it to his cousin who gave it to a friend to repair.

The phone was returned without his knowledge and put in a cupboard by his daughter who, on the day of the armed robbery, put it on charge because her cellphone had been taken away from her by her parents.

He said he put in the insurance claim because he believed the phone had been fixed.

But, the judge pointed out, he could not name the repairer nor explain why he had never been presented with a bill and had not paid for the repairs.

While the judge gave him the benefit of the doubt that the robbery had occurred, she deemed the claim for the phone to be fraudulent, resulting in his entire claim, including for some jewellery, failing.

On the issue of costs, she cited the proliferation of insurance fraud which resulted in increased premiums for all.

“The courts show displeasure when an insurer unfairly repudiates a claim… there is no reason why the courts should not penalise an insured whose claim is clearly fraudulent. He persisted with his fraudulent claim even after obtaining affidavits confirming that the phone was valueless … he drew his daughter and the repairer into his web of lies and I am satisfied this is an appropriate case for a punitive order for costs,” the judge said.

tania. broughton@inl.co.za

The Mercury


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