27 November, 2019
Ryan -v- Rochdale Borough Council
Forbes Solicitors has secured a finding of fundamental dishonesty against a Claimant who brought a claim for personal injury after allegedly falling in a pothole.
In December 2014, the Claimant alleged he was crossing the street when he lost his footing in a pothole, fell and sustained an injury to his hand.
Upon receipt of the proceedings, it was apparent that judgment had already been entered. A review of the papers revealed a number of significant issues relating to factual and medical causation, which had come to light following an admission of liability in the portal. The Defendant proceeded to make a successful application to the Court for permission to set aside judgment and to resile on the admission of factual causation.
A forensic investigation by the Forbes Fraud Team revealed significant inconsistencies in the Claimant's evidence. The investigation also uncovered details of the Claimant's criminal record. The Claimant had been convicted of serious sexual offences and is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence. He had been found guilty after pleading not guilty under oath. In light of the evidence, the Court was asked to exercise great caution when considering the Claimant's account of the alleged accident.
The Claimant was cross-examined in detail in respect of all aspects of his evidence.
He was taken through the photographs of the location and he was asked to describe his path. The Defendant relied on evidence obtained during the investigation, which demonstrated that the Claimant's alleged route was unjustified and illogical.
The Claimant's description of the accident mechanics was also unclear. There was no reference to a pothole in the contemporaneous hospital records. The Claimant had also used the terms 'trip' and 'slip' interchangeably. In evidence, he said that the words described the same thing. Although, he eventually conceded that if he had slipped then he would have gone backwards, which clearly indicated that he did know the difference between a 'trip' and a 'slip'.
Furthermore, he admitted that when he went back to the scene either a few days or a few weeks after his accident he assumed that the pothole had been the cause of his accident.
He was also cross-examined regarding his employment. The Defendant had reviewed his employment records at length and exposed that he had stopped working some two and half months prior to his alleged accident. The Judge found the Claimant's explanation evasive on this point, as he was unable to adequately explain why there were not any documents from his employer at the time of his accident.
The Judge concluded that the Claimant's evidence was poor. He commented that every explanation given was inadequate. Ultimately, as he did not look back after his accident he could not be certain what had been the cause of his fall.
The Claimant had failed to establish his case on a balance on probabilities and the claim was dismissed.
The Judge also found that the Claimant had been fundamentally dishonest pursuant to either CPR 44.16 and/or Section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (the Judge at trial reserved his Judgment on this point to a later hearing - a hearing that was required in any event to assess costs due to the Claimant's refusal to provide instructions). The Judge was satisfied that the Claimant had been dishonest by trying to claim compensation for an accident that had probably not happened in the circumstances alleged and also for seeking to exaggerate the effects that the injury had on him. The Judge commented that the Claimant's presentation of his case from start to finish had adversely affected the Defendant's ability to consider the facts.
At the subsequent hearing to assess the Defendant's costs, the Judge found that the Claimant's case had been fundamentally dishonest pursuant to CPR 44.16 and the Claimant was ordered to pay the Defendant's costs.
This is a fantastic outcome, not only was the claim dismissed but the finding of fundamental dishonesty enables the Defendant to enforce its costs against the Claimant. It sends a clear message to potential claimants that Rochdale BC will pursue Claimants who bring dishonest claims.
This case demonstrates that if new evidence comes to light following an admission of liability in the portal, it is possible to make a successful application to court to withdraw an admission of factual and medical causation.