A big win for the 'little guy'

A DAVID and Goliath battle waged by a local business which suffered extensive damage during last year’s floods has finally been resolved in what the owners are calling a “win for the little guy”.

Those “little guys” are Paul and Julie Worland from Total Gardens, who now face a much rosier future.

Their battle began shortly after the March 31 flood event, which left a trail of destruction across much of Coffs Harbour.

Their nursery business on Coramba Road was inundated with water reaching a depth of 900mm in the office and one metre in the nursery.

“In a space of six hours, Total Gardens went from being an attractive, award-winning garden centre to a scene of total devastation,” Mr Worland said.

The clean-up took two weeks and then a claim was lodged with their insurer for the losses incurred.

Mr Worland said it took almost another week for an assessor to arrive and then a few more weeks for the insurer to notify him they were refusing the claim on the grounds they considered the damage a result of flood and not stormwater.

“As you can imagine, we were pretty deflated by this. Damage was in excess of $100,000 and we had gone ahead and restocked and got the place open again on the understanding that we were covered by insurance, only to be turned down,” he said.

That was when Mr Worland’s dogged determination kicked in and he became focused on what would become a 15-month challenge to that decision.

“First we had to go through the insurance company’s internal process, only to be turned down again,” he said.

“Then we took the issue to the Financial Services Ombudsman and hired our own hydrologist to do a report for us.”

Mr Worland said fighting his insurer took more than 50 per cent of his time and in the past 15 months a folder full of letters and reports grew to be more than 10 centimetres thick.

But in the end it was all worthwhile, with notification late last month his tenacity had paid off.

“Last month we received a cheque for the full amount claimed, plus interest. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to recover the cost of my time nor any compensation for the stress caused to all of us here at Total Gardens,” he said.

Mr Worland said the support of friends, customers and suppliers ultimately got him through the ordeal.

“We’d like to thank all those suppliers and customers that supported us, especially the suppliers that were so understanding about payment and extending terms that were way beyond normal. Some even gave us product to keep us going. I’ve learnt a couple of things from this,” he said.

“The first is to always make sure you check the wording of insurance policies very carefully and the second is; if you’re sure you’re right, stick to your guns and don’t let the big boys bully you out of what you deserve.”

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