In a reminder that everyone has a duty to take reasonable steps to protect their own property, a man who walked away and ‘allowed his flat to burn’ without calling the fire brigade will go without a penny from insurers following a Court of Appeal ruling.

On the man’s own account, he had consumed seven pints of beer and eight whiskies before the fire broke out. His possessions and his daughter’s clothes collection had been burnt to a crisp. He had taken out a home insurance policy two months before; however, when he put in a claim for more than £20,000, the insurers refused to pay up – accusing him of starting the fire himself.

That claim was rejected by a judge following a five-day trial. However, he dubbed the man an ‘evasive and inaccurate’ witness and ruled that the insurers did not have to pay. The man had left the flat only about four-and-a-half minutes before a passer-by saw the blaze.

Although the man had ‘appeared shocked’ afterwards, the judge noted that he had ‘the ability to pull the wool over the eyes of others’. He must have been aware that there was a fire before he left the flat, but had ‘chosen to allow the place to burn’ without alerting the emergency services.

Refusing him permission to appeal against that ruling, the Court noted that the man’s evidence had been ‘comprehensively disbelieved’ by the judge. It was ‘bizarre and contrary to common sense’ to suggest that the insurers were not entitled to treat the policy as void on the basis of the man’s failure to take reasonable care to protect his own property.