One-legged tradie asks for fair go

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A Queenstown trades­man at the centre of an insurance wrangle after losing a leg is having his plight probed by TV’s Fair Go programme. 

Painter-decorator John Fenton – known as Bo – expected a $120,000 payout from his insurance
company, Sovereign, after having his right leg amputated to the groin. 

He lost the limb to a muscle-eating disease after cutting it on coral during a Vanuatu holiday last December, as revealed in Mountain Scene last month. 

While in hospital, Sovereign told him he didn’t qualify for a payout as his policy’s fine print stated he needed to lose two limbs or more, Fenton claims. 

“I can’t even push a trolley around the supermarket – I’d hate the thought of changing a tyre,” he says.
“This is life-changing.” 

Fenton is now surviving on an invalid’s benefit of only $250 a week as he’s unable to work at his usual job. “I can’t even carry a tin of paint to the tinting machine or to the counter to serve a customer,” he says. 

Fenton, 41, claims he has also been forced to let out his Queenstown home and has moved in with a sister in Timaru because he couldn’t keep up with the mortgage. 

Consumer show Fair Go’s Phil Vine interviewed Fenton in the resort on Tuesday – the stricken decorator was back in town trying on a special ski boot shouted by local retailer Outside Sports. 

Fenton argues that though he’s only lost one limb, he effectively loses the use of three – including both his hands – when getting around on two crutches. At best he’s been denied the use of two limbs as he still needs one crutch when using his artificial leg, he claims. 

Fenton – who’s on 32 pills a day – had hoped a payout would let him retrain, buy an automatic car and pay off credit card debt run up while looking after his dying father late last year. 

Fenton concedes he should have read his policy’s fine print, “but we don’t have a crystal ball – I thought I had more odds of winning Lotto than losing a limb”. 

He is “disappointed” with Sovereign, he says. 

“I’d like them to look at the limb section as in the sense of degree. Had I had a below-knee amputation, I would possibly be able to carry on my trade.” 

Insurance giants Sover­eign couldn’t be contacted last night for comment despite numerous attempts to reach them.

Insurance giants Sovereign couldn’t be contacted yesterday.