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Toilet visit cost owner his car and his claim

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A man who left his car running at the front of his business while he went inside to lock up and use the toilet has lost an appeal to have his insurance claim paid after the vehicle was stolen and destroyed.

The man lodged a claim with Suncorp following the theft on March 19 last year. The car was later found burned out and was declared a total loss.

The insurer declined to pay, relying on policy wording which excludes theft or damage “if the car is left unattended, unlocked and with the keys left in the car”.

The man appealed to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), arguing that he had not left the vehicle “unattended”, a word that was not defined in the policy.

The man had admitted to Suncorp that the car was unlocked and with the keys inside.

“I have pulled my car out of the warehouse and parked it out front,” he said.

“I left the car running with the keys in it. Some people have stopped and asked for some directions. I gave them directions and they moved away.

“I went inside the warehouse to lock up and go to the toilet and when I came out they had taken my car.”

AFCA applied a test outlined in a previous court ruling which says that to avoid the conclusion that the vehicle was unattended, the insured must be capable of keeping it “under observation”, or be able to observe an attempt to interfere with it and have “every prospect” of preventing such interference.

“Noting the insurer’s record that the complainant went to the toilet, I do not agree that during that period the complainant was capable of keeping the car under supervision,” AFCA said.

“Not only was the complainant not capable of observing any attempt to interfere with the car, but also the car was unlocked, with the keys in it and the engine running.”

As a result, Suncorp was entitled to rely on its exclusion.

However, Suncorp was criticised for requesting a large amount of information from the claimant and carrying out an “unjustified” investigation which delayed the decision on the claim.

As a result Suncorp must pay $1000 compensation to the claimant for non- financial loss.