Relationship breakdown ends overseas trip

Tui was on an overseas trip when she received a call from her son, Leonard, in New Zealand. Leonard’s relationship had ended, and he was distraught. Tui decided to return to New Zealand immediately to support Leonard while he was going through a very emotional and stressful time. Tui made an insurance claim for the changes to her travel plans, and the portion of the holiday she was unable to enjoy.

The insurer declined the claim, saying that Tui’s loss arose from her disinclination to travel and personal wishes.

Tui did not accept the insurer’s decision and referred her complaint to FSCL.

 

Dispute

Tui did not accept that she was disinclined to travel and said it was not her wish to return to New Zealand. Leonard’s relationship breakdown was unforeseen and outside either his, or Tui’s, control. Tui said that the usual meaning of disinclination suggested a change of mind on a whim.

Tui had researched other complaints about disinclination to travel and said these complaints all related to something in the nature of the travel that caused the change of mind. Tui had not changed her mind about the trip, rather she returned because she had no option but to support her son.

Tui also raised concern about the way the exclusion clause was drafted, saying that almost every decision to return home will have an element of a personal wish, including illness or bereavement.

Further, Tui said that some other insurers include a specific exclusion for loss arising from a relationship breakdown. There was no such clause in her policy. Tui said that, on this basis, it could be presumed that the insurer intended to cover loss arising from a relationship breakdown.

The insurer did not accept Tui’s arguments, saying the reason for returning was because of her personal wish, and maintained its decision to decline the complaint on this basis.

 

Review

We accepted that, from Tui’s perspective, she had no option but to return. Leonard’s relationship had ended, and he was extremely distressed. However, we had to decide whether the insurer was obliged to cover the loss that flowed from that decision.

While the insuring clause was met in that Tui was unable to complete her journey due to unforeseeable circumstances beyond her control, we considered the insurer was entitled to rely on the exclusion for loss arising directly or indirectly from the disinclination to travel or personal wish.

We agreed the disinclination to travel/personal wish clause was very widely drafted. However, the policy did provide cover if Tui had needed to return home for illness or bereavement.

It was our view that Tui’s case was a classic change of plans or change of mind situation. Although there was a valid and understandable reason for Tui’s decision to return home, there will always be a reason, no matter what the circumstances or how serious the situation bringing about the change of plans or mind.

Although some insurers may exclude relationship breakdown, we had to assess the claim against the wording of the applicable policy.

It was our view that the insurer was entitled to decline the claim, relying on the disinclination to travel/personal wish exclusion.

 

Resolution

Tui did not accept our preliminary view and made further submissions. We reviewed Tui’s complaint, but our decision was unchanged. We issued a formal recommendation that Tui’s complaint was not upheld.

 

Insights for consumers

Sometimes you will make a decision that is the right decision for you in the circumstances in which you find yourself. However, this does not necessarily mean that your insurer will be obliged to compensate you for the loss that flows from your decision. Insurance policies will never cover all risks and it’s important to read your policy exclusions to understand what circumstances are not covered by your insurer.

Search case studies