Noosa plumber’s estate could sue AAMI after fatal blaze
The estate of popular Noosaville plumber Raymond "Bones" Murray, who died following a house fire, could sue a home insurer for compensation, a Supreme Court judge says.
Justice Jean Dalton's decision opens the doors for Murray's estate to sue AAMI after his son Guy lost all and suffered personal injuries in last year's devastating blaze.
Guy dragged his father into the backyard when the house on 31 Dolphin Crescent in Noosaville went up in flames about 3.30pm on March 7 last year.
Noosa's sailing free spirit with Tiger blood in his Bones
Senior Sergeant Todd Maguire told reporters outside the house at the time that Murray "seemed to be in a fairly good state".
However, the popular plumber and sailor died in the Sunshine Coast University Hospital 20 days later.
He was 77.
His former partner, local GP Cherry Bains, posted a funeral notice in the Sunshine Coast Daily, saying he "died peacefully surrounded by friends and family when his big heart stopped beating … a local legend to say the least.
"RIP Bones, see you on the sea."
Murray was well known in the Noosaville community.
He created successful plumbing business Bones Murray Plumbing and spent 48 years playing for the Noosa Tigers, winning three best-and-fairest medals, a premiership and life membership.
He built a sailing boat in the 1980s before steering the 42-footer around the world solo.
His son, Guy, now 52, who he had with his ex-wife Venessa, moved from the UK to Australia to be at his father's side when the local legend started to struggle with dementia.
He had been in Australia for three months when the house suddenly caught alight.
In her judgment handed down last month, Justice Dalton said the police investigation found the fire was not suspicious.
"It occurred as a result of the deceased man spilling petrol in the garage and then accidentally igniting it," she said.
Guy lost everything in the fire and said he developed post-traumatic stress disorder following the dramatic event.
He submitted a claim for personal injury and the loss of his possessions with AAMI, his father's home insurer.
The insurance policy covered $20 million worth of legal liability to pay compensation for death or bodily injury to other people, excluding anyone "who usually lives at the insured address".
AAMI denied the claim, arguing Guy was a resident at the address.
But Justice Dalton disagreed.
"The material shows that Guy Murray is a citizen of the United Kingdom; travels on a UK passport; and did not live in Australia between 1972 and January 2019," she said in her judgment.
"The statement of facts is to the effect that Guy Murray's intention was to stay in Australia only long enough to attend to arrangements for his father's ongoing care and then return either to the United Kingdom, or South Africa, where he anticipated finding work, in April 2019.
"He had made no application for Australian residence."
Murray's old friend and executer of his estate Arthur Crummer applied for the court's advice after Guy decided to sue the estate following the AAMI decision.
In her final words, Justice Dalton said the estate was justified to commence litigation against AAMI.
"I think that relief ought to be granted in a more nuanced way," she said.
"It is hoped that the matter of indemnity could be resolved without instituting legal proceedings in the first instance."
Guy told The Australian he was in the midst of negotiations and never wanted to resort to legal action.
He said he still hoped a settlement might be reached.