18 Feb 2021

Man with terminal cancer fighting insurer 10 years after quake

From Checkpoint, 5:06 pm on 18 February 2021

A Christchurch man with terminal cancer is using his final days to battle his insurance company, a decade on from the deadly earthquakes.

Brian Shaw owns an apartment that's in a block of 11. They were all damaged in 2011.

Shaw is a building consent officer. He says getting technical reports and chasing a settlement with insurer Vero has already cost the unit owners about $400,000, and they still have not even made it to court.

On Friday morning he will be protesting outside Vero's Christchurch office, along with other unhappy customers.

Shaw has no more treatment options for his illness and he told Checkpoint he wants the insurance mess sorted so it is not a burden on his wife.

"Last year I spent quite a bit of time early in the year in hospital. I have stage four bladder cancer… At the moment it's given me a reprieve.

"I've finished chemotherapy and now I'm basically, I guess you could say, a ticking time bomb. I've only got whatever time I'm given before the cancer metastasises and then I'm basically downhill pretty fast.

"At the moment I'm working because there are still bills to pay as a result of this situation. I don't wish to leave my wife of 41 years with this terrible situation because of the financial strain it has put on us.

"It's complex and we need Vero's cooperation to get this out of the way, and as I say they have just deliberately put obstacles in the way in the hope that we'll run out of energy, run out of money, run out of resolve.

"But that's not going to happen. We want this in the public arena, we want people to know that this company that is advertising as being one that takes your worries away in the event of something going wrong is not what it is advertised as.

"Their behaviour is unconscionable considering the amount of delays they have caused," Shaw said.

He told Checkpoint Vero knows that Shaw has terminal cancer.

"Our lawyers made that known to them, and it's appalling. We actually want an apology in the first instance for their atrocious behaviour. It's deliberate. And this is known within the industry, that this is the way that insurers carry on.

"There have been numerous delays caused essentially by Vero, and every time the topic comes up there'll be documents that aren't ready on time. I can't really go into details because it's quite specific.

"It's clearly a delay tactic that's been used on a lot of people."

Shaw said people who have protested about the insurers before have been "whisked away" and silenced with non-disclosure agreements.

"They don't want the attention, they don't want people to know that this is what they've doing."

He thinks Vero is trying to delay his case until he has died.

"We know that the anniversary of the earthquakes has come up, we haven't been able to get anywhere. It's come to the point where the other unit owners, members of the body corporate, we've just had enough.

"It needs to be in their face and right under the nose that they've behaved in an appalling way, they need to make an apology for it and do something to resolve this.

"I feel pretty sad and disappointed that the end of my life has to be tainted by having to deal with this.

"It's a hollow feeling and you're not quite sure whether to be like raging bull or just a mess of tears, it's a horrible place to be in.

"One of the reasons we're fighting this is I just don't want my wife to be left having to deal with this mess.

"It's been very costly, it's been, way, way too long, and they need to do something."

Statement from Vero

On Thursday afternoon Vero contacted Checkpoint with a statement of apology: "We understand this is in relation to a claim from a body corporate representing 11 unit owners.

"This claim came to Vero from EQC in 2016. We do want to resolve this as quickly as possible and have approached the body corporate to again offer to attend mediation, which in our experience has been the most effective method for resolving complex claims.

"Unfortunately the court process does involve a lot of delay - for example, Vero was preparing for a court date in May this year but this was then postponed by the court.

"We are conscious that it has now been almost 10 years since the February 2011 quake, and we are sorry for the delay and empathise with the unit owners' frustrations."