16 May, 2018
Edward Wright v Satellite Information Services Ltd (2018) EWHC 812 (QB)
A Judge had been entitled to conclude that, for the purposes of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 s.57 ("CJCA"), a claimant had not been fundamentally dishonest in relation to his personal injury claim. The fact that his claim for future care costs had been rejected did not justify a finding that he had been dishonest.
The defendant appealed against a decision giving judgment in the claimant's favour. The claimant was injured at work and sustained injuries affecting his right lower limb. He was unable to return to work following the incident. The defendant admitted liability but sought the dismissal of the claim under section 57 CJCA. It was the defendant's case that covert video surveillance had produced evidence that the claimant was far less disabled than he claimed and that he had deliberately and dishonestly exaggerated his claim.
In the initial judgment, the Judge identified that there were some real inconsistencies in the claimant's case, including as to how far he was able to walk; to what extent he needed to use a walking stick and the level of pain that he suffered. He also considered that there were features of the presentation of the case giving rise to the suggestion that the claim was overstated, i.e. in relation to the claim for the care. Yet, having identified these concerns, the judge made a finding that the claimant was not guilty of dishonesty of a fundamental nature.
The issue arising on the Appeal was whether the Judge was wrong in not finding, on a balance of probabilities, that the claimant had been fundamentally dishonest.
The Appeal Judge dismissed the Appeal and concluded that the Judge had been entitled to find that the claimant had not been dishonest. The initial statements of the claimant and his wife related to the early months after the accident, when he undoubtedly had a need for support from his wife. The Judge made an allowance for past care to cover that. In his subsequent statements, the claimant did not labour the point as far as care was concerned, saying merely that he continued to require his wife's help with certain activities. He had been broadly consistent in what he had said in relation to any need for ongoing assistance. The reason for the Judge's rejection of that element of the claim was not that he found the respondent's evidence to be untruthful, but rather that a proper interpretation of that evidence did not support the assessment of the care expert, whose report formed the basis of the claim for future care costs.
This decision provides yet another factor to consider when considering whether or not a claimant has been "fundamentally dishonesty". The High Court found that the claimant had offered a "misleading impression" of his need for future care, but in doing so, the trial judge was not bound to find that the claimant was dishonest for presenting such a claim.
The facts of this case can be distinguished from the recent case of London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games v Sinfield , whereby the claimant was found fundamentally dishonest after claiming for future loss supported by false invoices. The difference seemingly being that Mr Sinfield had deliberately fabricated evidence to support his claim whereas Mr Wright had overstated his claim for future care.
The principle of "fundamental dishonesty" is constantly being refined, and each case will be decided on its own facts.