18 August, 2023
We will never know if the claimant in a recent claim we defended was fundamentally dishonest, but we certainly had our suspicions. And when his claim was struck out and he paid our client's legal costs in full it only reinforced our concerns.
We defended a claim brought by a local authority tenant who claimed that as he left his house, he immediately slipped on moss that he alleged had fallen off the roof and onto the floor. As a result of the slip, he alleged that he then fell into the wall and scraped his upper right arm/shoulder on screws sticking out of the wall.
Liability was denied on the basis that there was no duty to remove moss and other debris. His allegations included that a 'caterpillar' had been fitted by the council to his gutter which had come loose, which he claimed caused moss to then fall/be blown from his roof into his garden. Whilst the fitting of the caterpillar was accepted, it was denied that that had anything to do with moss being blown off his roof (the purpose of the caterpillar was to prevent the guttering from blocking, not to stop moss falling from the roof).
Aside from the liability defence, there were numerous red flags in terms of causation:
We made a decision with our client to defend that matter to trial on the basis of our liability denial and the real concerns about the claimant's credibility. We were intending to invite the court to make a finding of fundamental dishonesty and to thereby seek to overturn QOCS.
The claimant's solicitors came off record shortly after these Part 35 questions were supplied, and then the claimant failed to pay his hearing fee, so the matter was struck out less than a week before trial.
We were instructed to apply to get the matter reinstated in order to seek a fundamental dishonesty finding to enable a costs order to be secured in our client's favour.
Having made that application, the claimant then contacted us and offered to pay the council's costs which was accepted and the agreed sum was paid the same day.
We had concerns about the claim from the outset as did our client. We scrutinise all claims for any "red flags" that might suggest that a claim is not all that it seems, and to decide with our clients whether further investigations or enquiries are warranted. We work closely with clients to ensure that claims considered to be fabricated are robustly defended. That certainly paid off on this occasion, with the successful outcome on the claim, and our client's costs being met.
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