In the case of Sorout Mushroom Farm v NIC & Ors1 (decided on 16 April 2019), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) provided some useful guidance in relation to the claim assessment by an IRDA licensed Surveyor.
On 9 September 2012, the Insured took a Standard Fire and Special Perils Policy from National Insurance Co Ltd (Insurer) for his mushroom farm covering machinery, building, raw materials, etc. During the policy period, the farm caught fire and consequently the Insured notified a loss of c. ₹50 lacs to the Insurer.
The Insurer appointed a surveyor (Surveyor 1) who assessed the total loss to be ₹254,407, much lesser than the Insured's expectation. The Insured therefore appointed his own surveyor (Surveyor 2) and we understand that there was a substantive difference in the compensation assessed by the two surveyors.
State Consumer Commission
The Insurer did not pay the claim and the Insured filed a complaint before the State Consumer Commission. The State Commission accepted Surveyor 1's assessment and additionally awarded ₹99,000 (total ₹354,000) to the Insured. Dissatisfied with the quantum of claim provided by the State Commission, the Insured approached the NCDRC asking for more.
The Insured inter alia raised the following grounds before the National Commission:
- Surveyor 1 did not account for all damages in his assessment, which have been addressed by Surveyor 2.
- Surveyor 1 did not have requisite qualifications to assess the damage.
The NCDRC however dismissed the Insured's contentions while making the following relevant observations:
- The Insured had to provide the
relevant documentation to Surveyor 1, which he did not. Therefore,
the Insured cannot take advantage of his own wrong.
"From the above observations of the surveyor it is clear that the complainant himself was deficient in supplying the relevant documents and therefore, the surveyor has to apply some approximations to arrive at certain value based on the surveying principles and other existing practices. The complainant cannot claim benefit of his own wrong."
- Qualifications of the Insurer's
"The learned counsel for the appellant has argued that the surveyor was a Chartered Accountant and he has no knowledge of plant and machinery for the mushroom industry and therefore, he has not assessed the plant and machinery correctly or for that matter even the building or the stock. The surveyors are independent loss assessors appointed under the Insurance Act, 1938. They are approved by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDA). Insurance Company is free to appoint any IRDA approved surveyor. It was not a complicated machinery, which required any specific knowledge of the industry and the surveyor in his examination-in-chief and in cross examination has admitted that he has conducted many such surveys. Keeping this in view, I do not find any merit in this assertion of the complainant."
- Limited role of the Insured's
"The surveyor appointed by the complainant has given an estimate of Rs.15,00,000/- for the repair of the building. However, the surveyor appointed by the Insurance Company only assessed a loss of Rs.50,000/- in this regard. First of all, it is to be noted that the complainant can appoint surveyor only for his own satisfaction, but in the Insurance Act, 1938, it is the Insurance Company that has to appoint a surveyor for the loss assessment. The insurance claim is to be settled on the basis of the report of the loss assessor appointed by the Insurance Company."
Accordingly, the NCDRC came to the view that the assessment carried out by the Insured appointed Surveyor has limited scope, more so when the surveyor appointed by the Insurer has given an unambiguous assessment.
 First Appeal No 69 of 2016
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