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Brokerage chairman sues A Current Affair

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Chairman of Sydney-based GSA Insurance Brokers and former Liberal Party leader John Hewson is suing Channel 9 for damages over an episode of A Current Affair which he says was defamatory and inaccurate.

Dr Hewson’s statement of claim to the Federal Court, seen by insuranceNEWS.com.au, also lists the flagship program’s presenter Tracy Grimshaw and journalist Danielle Post as respondents.

The episode in question, broadcast on May 18, detailed the experiences of Adrian and Nicole Dolahenty, who lost possessions they had put into storage at a Parramatta Storage King facility after it was flooded in February.

They had arranged insurance through GSA, which was a partner of Storage King, but their claim was knocked back because the policy did not cover flood.

“John Hewson – show leadership and get your company, GSA Insurance to pay us and everyone who’s been dudded by your company,” Mr Dolahenty says in the broadcast.

But Dr Hewson’s statement of claim says an email had been sent to the program explaining that GSA was the broker, not the insurer, and that the Storage King units were inundated due to the overflow of “a nearby water course”.

The email explained that claims handlers, loss adjusters, and a hydrologist all confirmed that the loss was caused by flood, which was not covered under the policy.

It also said the Dolahentys had not taken advantage of a dispute resolution process.

The hydrologist’s report was provided to the Dolahentys and had been shown to the Respondents, the statement of claim says.

“Despite possessing the information … the Respondents aired a series of statements by Mr Dolahenty clearly suggesting that GSA Insurance knew the damage was in fact caused by a storm and was itself dishonestly relying on the flood exclusion,” it says.

“The Respondents knew these statements were false. They possessed no evidence supporting their truth and possessed expert evidence confirming their falsity.”

The statement of claim also addresses a second matter – the publishing of the same material to the 9News Facebook page, which had about 2.3 million followers.

“By reason of publication of the matters complained of, the Applicant has been greatly injured and his business, personal and professional reputation has been and will be brought into public disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt,” the statement of claim says.

“The Applicant claims damages, including aggravated damages, interest and costs.”

insuranceNEWS.com.au asked Channel 9 whether it had responded to Dr Hewson’s statement of claim and whether it would be fighting the allegations.

“We won’t be commenting on this,” a spokeswoman said.