04 December, 2018
Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd v (1) Kamar Abbas Khan (2) Shafiq Sultan (3) Asef Zafar (4) Mohammed Shazad Ahmed (2018) EWHC 2581 (QB) QBD (Garnham J) 05/10/2018
A claimant personal injury lawyer and a medical expert have been found to have committed multiple civil contempts.
In May 2012, the Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company Ltd (LVI) sought the committal for contempt of court of four persons for their involvement in a falsified personal injury claim. The defendants were a lawyer, the manager of a company specialising in personal injury claims, a doctor, and a paralegal.
A taxi driver had been involved in a road accident caused by LVI's customer. He approached the manager of the claims company to make a personal injury claim against the insurer. The claims manager arranged for the taxi driver to instruct the lawyer, and the lawyer instructed the doctor to examine the driver. The doctor reported that the driver's injuries were not serious and that he had recovered within a week.
After receiving the report, the lawyer told the doctor that the driver was still suffering from medical problems and asked if he could amend his report to a prognosis of recovery over the next six to eight months. The doctor asked his secretary to make the requested amendments.
The original report was accidentally included in the evidence bundle to the insurer, which set alarm bells ringing. The insurer alleged contempt on the following grounds:
The Court was satisfied that the lawyer had devised evidence to support the assertion that the taxi driver's injuries were more serious than stated in the original medical report. He had deliberately sought an amended report to mislead the insurer and the Court. He was found guilty of 11 of the 19 allegations of contempt.
The Court found that the doctor's "recklessness" had led to the production of a revised medical report. He had given no thought as to whether the amendments were clinically justified. Ten of the sixteen allegations against the doctor were made out.
None of the allegations against the manager or the paralegal were made out and the claims were therefore dismissed.
In the Judgment, the Judge refers to the "industrialisation" of the process for producing medical reports in support of personal injury claims. The doctor was required to examine and interview up to 32 patients a day and produce reports within an average of 15 minutes. The Judge noted that this allowed "precious little time for thought or reflection". It emerged in evidence that it was not uncommon for solicitors to ask the Doctor to consider an amendment to his reports. It was also revealed the doctor would not check the reports once they had been amended. The Judgment gives a startling insight into the mass production of medico-legal reports and the lack of care and attention that often goes into preparing and amending such reports.
Civil contempt is a serious matter and refers to contempt, which is not itself, a crime. The sanctions for civil contempt are no less serious than criminal contempt ranging from imprisonment (for a period up to 2 years), a suspended sentence of imprisonment or a fine.