Insurance battle over unusual death

The unusual death of a co-owner of a popular Joo Chiat popiah shop has led to a $1.2 million insurance battle in the High Court between his family and AIA Singapore.

The sister of Mr Quek Kiat Siong, who died two years ago, is suing the insurance giant to make it pay out on two personal accident policies. But AIA argues that Mr Quek did not injure his body in any accident, so the policies did not apply.

Mr Quek helped run the Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah & Kueh Pie Tie - a family business started by his father in 1938 on the same premises.

In July 2012, he was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Hospital for a month-long treatment for back pain. He was also treated by a psychiatrist for anxiety, depression and insomnia. He was prescribed 14 drugs by different doctors.

On Aug 4, 2012, he was found unconscious by a tenant at his Everitt Road house and rushed to Changi General Hospital. He died on the same day aged 50. His sister, Victoria, who is helping to administer his estate, is claiming that his death was an accident caused by drug intoxication from the medication, according to court papers filed through her lawyer Melanie Ho.

AIA first rejected the claims last year after the death was ruled a suicide by a coroner. The insurance policies have a clause that excludes suicides. But the following month, AIA said it was no longer relying on this point, but on the fact that the policies were accident ones.

This meant the insured had to sustain bodily injury in an accident before the sum assured is payable. In Mr Quek's case, there was no evidence of such an injury, said AIA.

Defended by lawyer Lim Tong Chuan, the company declined comment, citing the ongoing court case. It said in a statement: "We are committed to claims payout in accordance with the terms and conditions of the policy contract."

This article was first published on Nov 16, 2014.
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