In what is perhaps a first, State Bank of India (SBI) has agreed to reimburse the medical expenses of a customer who fell from an unstable ladder at a bank branch in Mumbai leading to severe injuries, surgery and hospitalisation. The Bank paid, only on the intervention of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) at the highest level. Ironically, after having first rejected his claim and after the banking ombudsman too had rejected his claim for reimbursement. Unfortunately, there has been no compensation for the dogged battle fought by the customer with support from Moneylife Foundation.
Readers may recall our article, earlier this month, about how how DS Ranga Rao, 71, a retired intelligence bureau (IB) officer, was fighting a dogged battle with State Bank of India (SBI)
to even acknowledge the negligence which caused him to suffer a fall from an unsuitable ladder, leading to severe injuries and medical treatment. It may be recalled that Mr Rao’s claim for reimbursement of medical expenses had been rejected by both the SBI as well as the banking ombudsman without even an effort to speak to him.
A top insurance expert, Mr Shrirang Samant told Moneylife that the Public Liability Act makes public liability insurance mandatory for all organisations. The concerned bank would have substantial insurance under the Act. Unfortunately, the customer was still denied the claim until the matter was taking up with RBI, at the highest level, after pointing to the Public Liability Act.
SBI has paid over Rs5 lakhs to Mr Rao as reimbursement, which is lower than his costs. Worse, the disability he suffered due to the fall is permanent and is a fit case for granting him compensation, which has still been ignored by the Bank and could entail another legal battle for consumer action. Mr Rao says, “Moneylife Foundation has been the pillar of support for me and I thank them for their help."
Mr Rao’s dogged battle will serve as a template for such cases where customers are put to risk or injured due to actions or negligence by a bank, or any other organisation or establishment.
Moneylife Foundation has requested RBI to announce a set of standard operating procedure (SOPs) to be followed when customers are injured while at a bank. The banking ombudsman, which has once again demonstrated little understanding of its role in protecting customers, also needs to be instructed on the handling of such cases. After all, this is not a stray case. Only recently the media reported the case of an 80-year-old
who ended up locked overnight in a bank branch due to similar negligence. There will be hundreds of other cases where customers do not know they have a right to medical reimbursement or have their claims rejected in the absence of clarity from the banking regulator.
We hope this will lead to a policy or circular from RBI so that each individual does not need to go through such a harrowing fight. That would be a great pro-customer initiative from the banking regulator.