Axa sued for £1.7m over fire payout ‘document tampering’ claim

Michael O'Dwyer
·2-min read
Axa - Christophe Morin/Bloomberg
Axa - Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

Axa is being sued for £1.7m over claims of document tampering that resulted in a lower payout for a customer whose property was damaged in a fire.

The insurer faces legal action by property investor Aubrey Weis and his company Elcombe Limited, who claim in court papers that Axa conspired with insurance broker Lockton following a fire at the Golden Triangle industrial estate in Cheshire.

As broker, Lockton arranged cover for Mr Weis’s companies to be placed with Axa, which would pay out in the event of a valid claim.

After the fire, Axa became liable for the cost of rebuilding the property as well as the debris removal costs and loss of rental income, the claimants allege in documents filed at the High Court.

But Mr Weis further claims that employees of Axa and Lockton arranged an “off the record” meeting after which the certificate of insurance was altered so that claims to be settled on an “indemnity” basis, meaning that the policy would pay a lower amount.

Lawyers for Mr Weis allege that on July 4 2019, a week after the fire took place and a day or two after the meeting with Axa, Lockton amended the certificate of insurance.

Mr Weis and his companies claim in the court documents that they never agreed to the document being altered but assert that Axa did not authorise or agree to the changes.

Mr Weis, who owns six Debenhams stores and became embroiled in a legal dispute this year over the group’s restructuring, has already filed a separate High Court claim against Lockton, one of the world’s largest insurance brokers.

The claim against Lockton alleges that the company deceptively altered the certificate of insurance, two settlement forms and an Axa email in order to preserve lucrative commissions from Axa.

An Axa spokesman said: “We do not comment on matters which are before the court.”

A Lockton spokesman said the company strongly refutes the claims against it. She said: “We do not believe the allegations made are a true or accurate representation of the events or of our business and its values. We are contesting these allegations through due legal process and as a result it is in appropriate for us to comment further.”