From The Irish Times, 14 September 2016. Story by Aodhan O’Faolain.
A former secondary school teacher and her children were “spied on” after she brought a legal action against insurance company Zurich Life Assurance, the High Court has heard.
Bridget Majella Daly claims she was placed under surveillance, by a private investigator acting for the insurer, after she launched proceedings against Zurich in mid August over the insurer’s decision to cease paying her a disability allowance she claims she is entitled to.
Ms Daly claims she was on occasion followed while driving one of her children to school, was photographed or filmed by a man while walking in a park on another occasion, and also saw a car drive past her home slowly.
The court heard while Zurich’s lawyer’s had said in correspondence it would discontinue the surveillance Ms Daly said in a sworn statement that the action was “designed to intimidate me” and fears that it may resume.
The 48-year-old mother of three with an address at The Chase, Clonmel, Co Tipperary has suffered from a condition known as ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for many years.
She is unable to work as a teacher and has been deemed medically unable to do so by the Department of Education.
Her barrister Rory de Bruir Bl told Mr Justice Anthony Barr at the High Court on Wednesday Ms Daly had, through her trade union the ASTI, signed up to a salary protection scheme with Zurich.
Her initial application for payment under the scheme after she became unable to work was refused by Zurich, but was granted following an appeal.
Despite her illness, Zurich ceased paying her the benefits in April of this year, counsel said. The insurer informed her that her case was under review.
As part of that process Zurich said she must undergo a test called a “Functional Capacity Evaluation”.
Counsel said there are six medical reports supporting Ms Daly’s diagnosis and that she cannot work as a teacher. The test Zurich want her to undergo has been described in unrelated High Court cases as not being a medical diagnostic test, counsel added.
Counsel said that after she brought proceedings over Zurich’s refusal to make payments she noticed in late August that she and her children were under surveillance.
The first incident happened while she was taking her first walk of the summer in a local park, when she noticed a man taking images of her with a camera.
That and the other incidents, which upset both her and her family, were reported to the Garda.
A complaint was made to Zurich’s legal representatives who sent an email saying the surveillance would be discontinued, counsel said. However, he added there were no guarantees nor undertakings that the surveillance may resume.
Counsel said his client was distressed and upset over what has happened to her. Zurich also said Ms Daly had signed a clause in the policy allowing it to investigate claims.
Ms Daly said in her sworn statement that the dispute should be determined through “medical evaluation” and “not by people spying on me and my family”.
Mr Justice Barr granted Ms Daly’s lawyers permission, following an ex-parte hearing, to serve short notice of the proceedings on Zurich Life Assurance Plc.
In her action Ms Daly seeks injunctions directing Zurich to pay her disability benefit under the ASTI Salary Protection Scheme.
She also seeks orders restraining the defendant and all persons who have knowledge of the order from carrying out any surveillance of her and her children, and that any images be handed over.
The judge said he was not satisfied at this poin to grant any injunctions without hearing from the other side. Mr Justice Barr adjourned the matter to next Tuesday’s sitting of the court.