25 July, 2019
A Claimant, who alleged he had sustained personal injury after the wheel of his lorry hit a pothole, has agreed to pay the Defendant's costs in full if the Council agreed to withdraw their application for a finding of fundamental dishonesty.
In 2015, the Claimant alleged that he was driving his HGV lorry when the offside drive axle dropped into a pothole in the road, causing the lorry to jolt violently. Breach of duty was admitted but the Claimant was put to strict proof. The Defendant had grave reservations about whether the accident had occurred, as well as severe concerns relating to the extent of the injuries and the legitimacy of the £5000 claimed by way of special damages.
The robust defence of the case ultimately led to the Claimant discontinuing his claim. As this was a QOCS case, both parties would be required to bear their own costs. In the circumstances, this was seen as an unsatisfactory outcome. The Defendant therefore applied for the matter to be reinstated to allow the Defendant to seek a finding of fundamental dishonesty and to overturn the provisions of QOCS.
In an unusual step, the Court listed the matter for a fundamental dishonesty trial. During the trial, the Claimant was the subject of cross-examination for over 3 hours. The Claimant failed to explain why, with an acceptance of a breach of duty, he discontinued his claim. His evidence was weak and inconsistent; and his answer to every point was to blame his solicitors for their default.
The Defendant's biggest concern related to a claim for gardening services. The Claimant claimed that before his accident, he used to carry out all his own gardening on a weekend but his injuries prevented him from doing so and had to employ a gardener. No evidence of his losses had ever been produced. At the trial, it was revealed that his company had in fact paid for the gardening expenses, at which point the barrister acting for the Defendant informed the Claimant that he had potentially committed a criminal offence, by using company funds for personal purposes. The Judge was required to provide the Claimant with a criminal warning to advise him that he did not have to answer any further questions on this point for fear of self-incrimination.
A short adjournment promptly followed and the Claimant offered to pay the Defendant's costs in full if the Defendant agreed to withdraw the application. After careful deliberation, the Council agreed that accepting the offer ensured the full protection of public funds.
Calderdale MBC, Zurich and Forbes anti-fraud team are delighted with the outcome of this matter. The Defendant was clearly vindicated in pursuing the application for a finding of fundamental dishonesty. The evidence that emerged during the hearing confirmed the concerns, which the Defendant had had during the entire case. The costs order obtained ensured that valuable public funds were preserved and sent a robust message to those considering pursuing fraudulent or exaggerated claims against Calderdale MBC.