Friday, February 5, 2010

Benge & Pratt Explosion, Upper Hutt - 1914 - The Aftermath

In the months following the Coroner's verdict on the cause of the Benge & Pratt store explosion, Messrs Benge and Pratt sought to recover their losses from their insurance policy.

The Guardian Assurance Company would have none of it, however, arguing in the Supreme Court in Wellington that Benge & Pratt had violated the terms of the policy which prohibited the storage of explosives as well as the storage of quantities of more than 25 lbs of gun or blasting powder. Benge & Pratt brought suit against Guardian Assurance.

On 11 December 1914, the Chief Justice delivered his verdict that Benge & Pratt had indeed breached the express warranty they gave in the policy, by stating "no" to the question will any hazardous goods listed [in the policy] be stored" on the premises? Thus, Benge & Pratt were unable to recover their business losses through insurance. (Evening Post, 11 December 1914, p. 7)

Back in May 1914, neighbouring store J A Hazelwood & Co was fined a nominal sum of 5 shillings for selling explosive without a license. Benge & Pratt faced a similar action but it was adjourned. It is not clear from the newspaper record what subsequently resulted from the action.

By October 1914, Herbert Benge was again doing business as H V Benge & Co grocery store in Upper Hutt. It appears that Pratt and Benge went their separate ways.

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