Medical records were the key to the Claimant being found fundamentally dishonest -Sheffield v Wills

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30 September, 2020

Forbes acted for Sheffield City Council in the successful defence of a claim on the basis that the claimant was fundamentally dishonest.

The Claimant's pleaded case alleged that on 19th October 2016 she was caused to slip down 14 steps in the communal area of the block of flats where she resided as a Council tenant. She specifically alleged that the steps were wet due to cleaning undertaken by the Council's employees. Furthermore, it was alleged that the lack of tread grips on the steps rendered the same defective. As a result of this alleged fall, the Claimant stated she had sustained multiple serious injuries.

Whilst the Claimant committed to a 19th October 2016 accident date once proceedings had been served, pre-action the Claimant had provided a variety of accident dates varying from 1st October, 9th October, 20th and 21st October 2016. None of these dates however corresponded with the date the Council had undertaken cleaning of the steps which had taken place on the 14th October 2016. The Council's employees had recorded this date on their PDA as they completed the same. Our starting point therefore was that the Claimant may have slipped on the steps but it was not as a result of the Council's cleaning. The Claimant sought to undermine this by stating there was a wet floor warning sign, out of sight of where she descended the steps.

Forbes thereafter obtained the Claimant's medical records which highlighted even further inconsistencies in the Claimant's case. These revealed she had attended her GP approximately one hour after the time and date she says the accident occurred, but for matters unrelated to her injuries. There was no reference to the accident or injury. The Claimant denied she had even attended the GP on this date when this was put to her in cross-examination.

The medical records also revealed her initial account to the hospital was that she had slipped down a single step on 20th October 2016 and referred only to a left knee injury as opposed to bilateral shoulder injuries, knee injuries and damaged teeth as she now complained of. Her explanation under cross-examination was that the A&E doctor told her he could only examine her knee and she would need to see someone else about her other injuries. Despite there being no reference whatsoever to dental injuries, at one point she sought to explain the inconsistencies in her case on the dental injuries by suggesting it meant it was difficult for others to understand what she was saying.

Following disclosure of the medical records, Forbes successfully applied to amend the Defence to specifically plead fundamental dishonesty.

At Trial, the Judge found overwhelmingly in the Council's favour. He was satisfied no cleaning had been undertaken by them on the alleged accident date. The Claimant could not succeed on liability, therefore. He went on to state the Claimant's case was littered with inconsistencies and he found her to have been fundamentally dishonest in respect of both the accident circumstances, the aftermath and the extent of injuries she had sustained.

Forbes Comment

Forbes are delighted with this result. At the outset there were concerns as to the Claimant's inability to commit to an accident date and that she was amending the same in an attempt to coincide with the date the cleaning was undertaken by the Council. The medical records were initially sought in expectation that the accident date could be confirmed however these simply highlighted significant inconsistencies in the Claimant's case, significant enough for us to formally plead fundamental dishonesty. This case shows the importance of scrutinising medical evidence.

For more information contact Siobhan Hardy in our Insurance department via email or phone on 0113 386 2686. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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