Insurance and transport law : controlling insurance contract terms : Section 54 of the Insurance Contracts Act – compliance, recovery and accountability

Tarr, Julie-Anne (2014) Insurance and transport law : controlling insurance contract terms : Section 54 of the Insurance Contracts Act – compliance, recovery and accountability. Australian Business Law Review, 42(4), pp. 317-323.

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Commonwealth legislation covering insurance contracts contains numerous provisions designed to control the operation and effect of terms in life and general insurance contracts. For example, the Life Insurance Act 1995 (Cth) contains provisions regulating the consequences attendant upon incorrect statements in proposals [1] and non-payment of premiums, [2] provides that an insurer may only exclude liability in the case of suicide if it has made express provision for such contingency in its policy, [3] and severely restricts the efficacy of conditions as to war risks. [4]

The Insurance Contracts Act 1984 (Cth) is even more intrusive and has a major impact upon contractual provisions in the general insurance field. It is beyond the scope of this note to explore all of these provisions in any detail but examples of controls and constraints imposed upon the operation and effect of contractual provisions include the following. A party is precluded from relying upon a provision in a contract of insurance if such reliance would amount to a failure to act with the utmost good faith. [5] Similarly, a policy provision which requires differences or disputes arising out of the insurance to be submitted to arbitration is void, [6] unless the insurance is a genuine cover for excess of loss over and above another specified insurance. [7] Similarly clause such as conciliation clauses, [8] average clauses, [9] and unusual terms [10] are given qualified operation. [11]

However the provision in the Insurance Contracts Act that has the greatest impact upon, and application to, a wide range of insurance clauses and claims is s 54. This section has already generated a significant volume of case law and is the focus of this note. In particular this note examines two recent cases. The first, Johnson v Triple C Furniture and Electrical Pty Ltd [2012] 2 Qd R 337, (hereafter the Triple C case), is a decision of the Queensland Court of Appeal; and the second, Matthew Maxwell v Highway Hauliers Pty Ltd [2013] WASCA 115, (hereafter the Highway Hauliers case), is a decision of the Court of Appeal in Western Australia. This latter decision is on appeal to the High Court of Australia. The note considers too the decision of the New South Wales Court of Appeal in Prepaid Services Pty Ltd v Atradius Credit Insurance NV [2013] NSWCA 252 (hereafter the Prepaid Services case).These cases serve to highlight the complex nature of s 54 and its application, as well as the difficulty in achieving a balance between an insurer and an insured's reasonable expectations.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 79475
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Insurance , Transport Law, Section 54 Insurance Contracts Act
ISSN: 0310-1053
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Thomson Reuters
Deposited On: 15 Dec 2014 01:03
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2014 22:31

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