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Insurer ordered to pay for dead hot-spring bather

A Shanghai court ordered an insurance company to pay 130,000 yuan (US$19,490) in indemnity to the family of a man who died suddenly while bathing in a hot spring.

Pudong New Area People's Court judged that Union Life Insurance Co Ltd should bear the unfavorable result because it couldn't prove Wu Dewei, 48, had died of illness.

Wu joined a group tour organized by a Shanghai bus company he worked for to Hainan Island in August 2009. The company bought each tourist an accidental injury policy underwritten by the insurance company. The policy with a premium of 4 yuan covered the trip period.

On the night of August 27, 2009, Wu went to a hot spring pool in his hotel in Hainan's Xinglong Town. He was soon found lying at the bottom of the pool, 80 centimeters deep and 41 degrees in Celsius.

Wu was unconscious when he was lifted out of the water and died quickly.

Hainan police concluded that it was a sudden death possibly caused by mental reason, temperature shock or fatigue.

The definition of sudden death was the main dispute between the two sides at today's hearing. The insurance company refused to compensate, saying a sudden death should stem from a hidden disease or organ malfunction. It wasn't something covered by the policy.

Since Wu's family refused autopsy, there was no evidence to prove Wu had died from an accident, the defendant added.

The plaintiffs denied Wu had any diseases, such as high blood pressure and heart diseases, which might result in sudden death. They accused the insurance company of narrowing the definition of sudden death. They said a sudden death could also be caused by accidents. In this case, heat of the hot spring was related to Wu's death.

Besides, sudden death wasn't included in the duty-free clauses of the contract, they added. "Nobody knows what happened exactly in the pool at that time. Anyway, it wasn't a dangerous place," said Zhang Feng, attorney for the plaintiffs. "It should be an accident."

He argued the insurance company had never emphasized the autopsy before cremation.

The court ruled that sudden death wasn't equal to death of disease. Since Union Life has accepted the police conclusion, it should compensate unless it can prove Wu had died of a certain disease.


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