The family of Wayne Fowlie, who died at a Goldfields mine site in 2014, has lost their fight to have his life insurance paid out after a payroll error by his employer caused his policy to be cancelled just weeks before his death.
Mr Fowlie died at Central Norseman Gold’s Harlequin mine on February 15, 2014 when he was fatally crushed in an underground rock fall.
Wayne Fowlie with his wife Raewyn, and family members. Photo: Facebook
The father-of-three had been working in Australia to save up a “nest egg” to return to his hometown in New Zealand.
On Thursday last week Perth District Court Judge, Anthony Derrick, decided against ordering Central Norseman Gold to pay out the 59-year-old’s life insurance after it failed to pay his superannuation contributions for nearly a year before his death.
Mr Fowlie’s payslips during that period from April 2013, had wrongly showed Central Norseman Gold was making contributions to his superannuation.
His life insurance cover, however, was cancelled on January 14, 2014, as there were insufficient funds in his superannuation account to make the required payments.
Mr Fowlie received a letter from his superannuation fund, AMP, warning of the pending cancellation in December, and gave the letter to a work colleague and friend, who was an administration officer at Central Norseman.
He asked her to query the letter with management.
Upon returning from a holiday road trip with his wife, Mr Fowlie received a second letter stating his life insurance had been cancelled on January 14.
Central Norseman claimed it was not aware of the initial letter sent to Mr Fowlie in December.
It drew a cheque to pay the owing superannuation contributions totalling $8843 on February 12, three days later – before the cheque was cashed – Mr Fowlie was killed.
The Administrator of Mr Fowlie’s estate, who was fighting for Central Norseman to pay out the amount his life insurance policy would have granted, lost their bid on November 3.
Judge Derrick instead awarded the administrator $100 in damages, finding Central Norseman had breached its contract, but dismissed its claim the mining company had been negligent.
Judge Derrick, in is judgement, said Mr Fowlie was informed about his policy’s cancellation and could have taken steps to rectify the situation.
“The defendant [Central Norseman Gold] did not at any stage assume responsibility for preventing the loss of Mr Fowlie’s death cover insurance,” he said.
“Mr Fowlie was able to protect himself from the risk of the loss of the death cover insurance that arose from the defendant’s failure to pay the superannuation contributions on their due dates.
“He was able to do so by taking the steps that I have found that he should have taken in order to mitigate the loss caused by the defendant’s breach of its contractual obligation.”
Originally from New Zealand, Mr Fowlie moved to Australia to build a nest egg so he could return eventually to his home town, Dargaville, with wife, Raewyn.
Ms Fowlie has previously told Fairfax Media her husband loved working in the mining industry.
“He loved working with machinery. He was a bit of a hermit,” she said in 2014.
“He was a neat guy, and it shouldn’t have happened to him… no-one deserves that.”
There have been three fatalities at Central Norseman mine sites and processing plants since 2010.
In 2016, a boilermaker died when a bridge collapsed, while in 2010, another worker died after falling whilst removing ladders from an escape risk.
In July 2016, none of Central Norseman’s open pits or underground operations were being mined.
The Harlequin pits, where Mr Fowlie had been working, ceased operations after his death.
The Sydney Morning Herald