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Former brokerage chairman and A Current Affair settle lawsuit

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Former GSA Insurance Brokers Chairman John Hewson and A Current Affair have settled legal action launched after the TV show broadcast a report on a flooding claim refusal that he alleged was defamatory and inaccurate.

The Federal Court was told yesterday that Dr Hewson and the Nine network had settled the dispute, which was due to be heard in Sydney before Justice Michael Wigney.

“The matter has been settled and details are confidential,” a Nine spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au today. “We won’t be making any further comment.”

Dr Hewson, a former Federal Liberal Opposition leader, took legal action after an episode on May 18 last year detailed the experiences of a couple whose possessions were damaged when the Parramatta Storage King facility was inundated.

Their claim under insurance arranged through Sydney-based GSA was knocked back because the policy did not cover flood.

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 the Storage King units were inundated when “a nearby water course overflowed” during extreme February weather.

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.

But the program, which named Dr Hewson, aired statements “clearly suggesting that GSA Insurance knew the damage was in fact caused by a storm and was itself dishonestly relying on the flood exclusion”, the court documents said.

“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.”

The action also related to publication of the material on the 9News Facebook page, which had about 2.3 million followers at the time.

Steadfast last August bought a controlling shareholding in GSA Insurance Brokers. Following the changes Paul Hines became Executive Chairman, while Dr Hewson has continued as an adviser to the board.

Dr Hewson’s lawyers said he would not be commenting on the outcome due to confidentiality requirements.