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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Tongan Companies End Insurance Case Without Payment
Receive no compensation for damage suffered in 2006 riots

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Nov. 12, 2012) – Four local companies who were suing their insurance company for cover over damage to their properties in the riots of 16 November 2006, ended their case today on the basis that no party paid costs. The plaintiffs were disappointed to pull out as the evidence in court about the riots favoured the defence position that the riots resulted from "a popular rising, people connected with an organisation the objects of which included influencing the government by violent means and terrorism."

The plaintiffs decided to end the expensive legal battle after two-weeks of what was supposed to be a month long trial, at the Supreme Court in Nuku'alofa, against the National Pacific Insurance (Tonga) Ltd. The plaintiffs, included the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Shoreline Group of Companies, Jones Group of Companies and Pacific Royale Hotel.

The decision to pull out was made after three key witnesses gave evidence for the plaintiffs last week. They included Tongatapu People's Representatives 'Akilisi Pohiva and 'Isileli Pulu, and the Minister for Justice Hon. Clive Edwards.

The plaintiffs in a joint press statement today said, that they were convinced they had a just case against NPI. "But ultimately the evidence in court about the riots and the financial risks of continuing resulted in us deciding to end the case on the basis that no party paid costs. The settlement with NPI is not an admission of liability or of any wrongdoing by any party."

"The case was always going to be hard and expensive. We fought the case against NPI for five years but the insurer was uncompromising in its refusal to pay the plaintiffs claims under the insurance policies. It is disappointing that we did not get a better response from NPI, which had conducted insurance business with the Tongan commercial sector for many years," they stated.

Claims

"NPI refused to pay our claims for a variety of reasons, but in particular that the damage to our property in the rioting of 16 November 2006 was caused by civil commotion assuming the proportions of or amounting to a popular rising, people connected with an organisation the objects of which included influencing the government by violent means and terrorism."

The plaintiffs understood that other insurance companies in Tonga had settled claims arising out of the riots.

They stated, "We are disappointed that a more positive outcome could not be achieved. But we are realistic about that and most of us no longer have an ongoing relationship with NPI as an insurer of choice."

NPI

NPI in its statement expressed delight in confirming, that the plaintiffs in this Supreme Court proceeding had discontinued all court action against the insurance company, without payment from NPI.

"Whilst NPI remains very sympathetic to the plaintiffs for their losses in the events of 16/11 this result vindicates NPI's decision that the losses were not covered by the policies."

Mr Justice Charles Cato was formally informed this morning in court of the decision to end the proceeding, by counsel Andrew Hooker who appeared for the defendant NPI. The judge adjourned the hearing and ordered for the plaintiff to file a discontinuance notice with court.

All counsel involved in the case were from New Zealand. NPI was represented by Michael Ring QC, Phillip Rzepecky and Andrew Hooker while Daniel McLellan assisted by Bridgette White acted for the plaintiffs.

Matangi Tonga Magazine: www.matangitonga.to/home/
Copyright 2012 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved


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