Obese woman’s insurance claim rejected over weight disclosure error

by Leo Almazora10 Apr 2017
An obese woman in New Zealand has lost a claim on her life insurance because she gave her insurer incorrect information on her weight.

When she applied for her policy, she filled out a form that asked for her medical and personal information, according to Newshub. While the form asked for her height and weight in centimetres and kilograms, respectively, she wrote “1.6” for height and “119” for weight, writing “m” and lbs” above the numbers to clarify.

Five years later, she was diagnosed with cancer, and she attempted to collect on a NZ$50,000 disability benefit that was included in the policy.

However, the insurer discovered that the woman actually weighed 119 kg — nearly twice the weight she declared on her application form. The insuring bank denied her claim and cancelled her plan, saying that it wouldn’t have given her the insurance had it known her actual weight.

In spite of an offer from the bank to refund around NZ$5,000 in premiums she had paid, the woman went to the New Zealand Banking Ombudsman. The arbitrating body, however, sided with the bank.

“We didn't agree that the bank should have known the weight stated on the form was incorrect,” the ombudsman said. “[I]t was her responsibility to ensure she supplied correct information, and the bank was entitled to rely on the information she gave.”

The extreme disparity between the woman’s stated weight and her actual weight, the according to the ombudsman, gave the bank the right to refuse to honour the policy.

“Knowing her true weight, the bank would not have offered her disability cover and would have required a higher premium for the life cover,” the ombudsman said. “Ms U either knew 119lbs was incorrect or was reckless about whether this was correct when she filled in the form.”

The bank subsequently repeated its offer to refund her premiums, offering additional compensation as well. The woman has reportedly accepted the new offer.

Related stories:
Evidence on reliability of disability assessments ‘limited,’ researchers warn
Pilot arrested for attempting to fly drunk sues for disability pay