The High Court Provides Guidance on Fundamental Dishonesty after London Olympics Volunteer Brings Dishonest Claim

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06 February, 2018

London Organising Committee of the Olympic & Paralympic Games (In Liquidation) v Haydn Sinfield (2018)[2018] EWHC 51 (QB)

The Court have set out the correct approach to applications to have a personal injury claim dismissed for fundamental dishonesty pursuant to s.57 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 ("CJCA"). Mr Sinfield was injured whilst volunteering at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012. Mr Sinfield brought a claim for personal injury, and the Defendant admitted liability. Mr Sinfield claimed that as a result of the accident he had to employ a gardener to look after his two-acre garden, a task which he and his wife had previously carried out. The total claimed, including future gardening expenses, was £14,000.

The Claimant disclosed invoices from his gardener. The Defendant approached the gardener who said he had been working as a gardener for Mr Sinfield since 2005, and that his work had not changed as a result of Mr Sinfield's accident. He also confirmed that the invoices did not come from him.

As a result of this information, the Defendant sought the dismissal of the claim under s.57 CJCA on the basis that Mr Sinfield had been fundamentally dishonest. However, the Judge dismissed the application and found that Mr Sinfield had not been dishonest but had been "muddled, confused and careless about this part of his claim".

The judge found that he had been dishonest in creating false invoices and in stating in his witness statement that the accident had caused him to employ a gardener but found that this dishonesty was not fundamental to the entire claim just to the gardening claim. He continued that it did not contaminate the claim and it would be unjust for the entire claim to be dismissed when the dishonesty related to a peripheral part of the claim and the rest was genuine.

The decision was appealed and overturned under s.57(2). The High Court held that the earlier decision was "plainly wrong". Mr Sinfield presented a large claim for special damages, which was evidenced by the dishonest creation of false invoices and by a dishonest witness statement. The dishonesty was premeditated and maintained over many months. Further, the judge made no findings capable of supporting a conclusion that if the whole claim was dismissed it would result in substantial injustice to the Claimant.

The Court has provided guidance on the proper approach to s. 57. A Claimant should be found to be fundamentally dishonest within the meaning of s.57(1)(b) if:

  • the Defendant proved on the balance of probabilities that he had acted dishonestly (in relation to the primary and/or a related claim), and
  • that he had substantially affected the presentation of his case, in respect of either liability or quantum, in a way which potentially adversely affected the Defendant in a significant way, judged in the context of the particular facts and circumstances of the litigation.
  • If the judge was satisfied that a claim was dishonest then he had to dismiss the claim in its entirety unless he was satisfied that the Claimant would suffer substantial injustice.

Forbes comment

It seems quite surprising that the Recorder at First Instance did not consider the actions of the Claimant to be fundamentally dishonest. It is hoped that the guidance offered in this binding judgment will give further bite to s. 57 and will deter Claimant's from exaggerating elements of their claim. It is useful that the Court has also clarified that the mere fact that a Claimant would lose his damages for the entire claim and not just the dishonest part of the claim does not count as "substantial injustice". Instead the Court must look for substantial injustice arising as a consequence of the loss of damages to subvert a finding of fundamental dishonesty.

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