23 May, 2019
A claimant who presented a grossly overstated and exaggerated care claim has been found to be fundamentally dishonest by the Court.
The claimant tripped and fell on to her left elbow in 2014 and sustained a fracture. A breach of duty was admitted and the claimant was put to proof in relation to both causation and her claim for special damages. In particular, the defendant was alarmed by the claim for care put forward by the claimant. Following the accident, the claimant had a cast applied and received surgery one week later. She subsequently developed a frozen shoulder and underwent physiotherapy and a second operation. Twenty-one months post-accident the claimant still complained of pain and alleged that she still required help to perform day-to-day tasks. She also alleged a psychological injury. A Schedule of Loss stated that past losses for care amounted to £65,000 and that care was ongoing at over £16,000 per year. The future care claim in total, applying the multiplier for the rest of her life, was pleaded in the sum of £928,631.13!
In response, the defendant adopted a robust stance and filed a Defence together with a Counter Schedule alleging exaggeration and fundamental dishonesty. The defendant also obtained surveillance, which showed the claimant shopping in her local town centre and carrying bags in both hands and on both shoulders.
During the trial, the claimant was cross-examined at length about the care aspect of the claim. According to the Judge, the cross-examination revealed a "wild overstatement" and the explanation for the extent of the care "made no sense whatsoever". For instance, it was suggested that 2.5 hours per day was required for meal preparation because she was unable to chop vegetables etc. but the injury was to her non-dominant left elbow. The claimant's husband was also cross-examined, the Judge found that his "support for the ludicrous amount of care claimed smacked of sticking to a script rather than truthfulness".
In conclusion, the Judge was not satisfied that the claimant received anywhere near the level of care claimed. He described the Schedule of Loss as "wholly and grossly dishonest". He remarked that it was more care then he would have expected to see if the claimant was paralysed from the waist down. The Judge agreed that s.57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 applied and that the defendant had successfully established that the claimant was fundamentally dishonest.
We are delighted to have secured a finding of fundamental dishonesty in this matter. The extent of the claim for care was both audacious and completely unbelievable for an injury to the non-dominant arm in an otherwise fit and well 40-year-old woman.
Section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 now provides defendants with a mechanism to challenge greedy claimants who blatantly seek to exaggerate elements of their otherwise genuine claim. Following the trial the Judge disapplied the QOCS rules and ordered the claimant to pay the defendant's costs.