Axminster family’s ground-breaking court victory

Judge awards �1,000 to family who were stranded in Mexico by the volcanic ash cloud

AN Axminster “ash cloud” travel victim has won a ground-breaking court victory against his insurers - which could open the floodgates for hundreds more successful claims.

Clive Tucker and his family got stranded in Mexico after the Icelandic volcano erupted and closed UK air space last Easter.

BA told them it would be at least about 10 days before they could fly them out, although they might be able to do something sooner from a US airport.

So Mr Tucker bought four tickets to New York, for �1,200, from where BA flew them home a week later than scheduled. In addition to the flights, the family incurred about �1,400 of additional accommodation and subsistence expenses.

Like thousands of other travellers, they later claimed against their insurance company.

But while BA repaid the �1,400 hotel and subsistence costs, their travel insurance company - Insure and Go – refused to admit any liability, claiming the incident was not “weather related”.

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But a judge at Yeovil County Court has disagreed and ordered them to pay the family a total of �1,009 - the amount due under the policy, of �880 plus costs and interest.

Mr Tucker is delighted and the verdict – which has been given nationwide publicity - may now pave the way for people with similar claims to get their money back.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) says it has taken the court’s ruling into account and is busy discussing the case with insurance underwriters after hundreds of customers put in claims for ash cloud damages. The FOS has already said the ash cloud should be perceived as a weather-related issue.

A spokeswoman for the FOS said that its books contain approximately 600 complaints from clients and it’s trying to make an ultimate ruling to resolve these issues while it is awaiting further negotiations with the insurers.

Mr Tucker, a solicitor who now runs the strategy consultancy, Pitch Partners, travelled to Mexico with his wife Ruth and their two children Oliver, eight, and Millie six. The family live at All Saints where the children attend the village primary school.

Mr Tucker said: “Although this has taken nearly a year to resolve, it’s been worth it. The judge found that the expression ‘poor weather conditions’ included the meteorological conditions of volcanic ash being in the air, relying on my analogy with 1950s pea souper smogs. I hope Insure and Go take this into account when they deal with other travellers in my situation.”

Insure and Go declined to comment.