Insurer escapes liability for damage to B-double

Clause gets CGU Insurance out of covering the damage its client caused to a B-double in a collision

By Brad Gardner | February 6, 2013

Motoring insurer CGU Insurance has escaped liability for the damage one of its clients caused to a B-double during a head-on collision.

The District Court of South Australia ruled CGU should not have to cover the $155,132.55 repair bill because its client, Allan McFarlane, drove at the Murray’s Transport-owned B-double in June 2008 with the intention of committing suicide.

CGU has a policy stating it does not cover damage deliberately caused by a client. It told the court McFarlane’s perilous financial position – he was recently made bankrupt and was operating a Ponzi scheme – provided a motive for him to commit suicide.

"In my view the clear preponderance of probability is in favour of the proposition that Mr McFarlane drove as he did with the intention of committing suicide…That being so, the exclusion clause contained in the policy has been satisfied," Judge Wayne Chivell says.

Brett Murray was driving the B-double on the Dukes Highway about 3.04pm on June 16, 2008 when McFarlane, travelling in the opposite direction, crossed to the wrong side of the road.

Murray says McFarlane took no evasive action, prompting the truck driver to apply his brakes heavily and serve to the left in attempt to avoid a collision. McFarlane was killed in the crash, but Murray was uninjured.

The collision caused both trailers of the B-double to swing almost 90 degrees.

"Remarkably, they did not tip over. Mr Murray attributed this to the fact that they were not loaded," Chivell says.

The New South Wales-based Murray’s Transport went into liquidation just before the court case began. Its insurer used its right of subrogation in the insurance policy covering the trucking company to continue legal action.

"In that sense they are merely borrowing the name of the company," Chivell says.

It argued there was no note or evidence of suicide or expert psychiatric opinion that McFarlane was suicidal.

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