15 November, 2013
HOMES FOR HARINGEY V FARI & FARI
31ST OCTOBER 2013
In recent years the Court has wrestled with applications from Defendants to seek a strike out and other appropriate sanctions on cases where there has been evidence of gross exaggeration. Recent cases suggest that the Court may be more willing to apply those sanctions than previously.
Barbara Fari brought a compensation claim against Homes for Haringey valued at £750,000. She claimed that she had suffered injury as a result of their negligence leaving her needing intensive care and assistance from her husband. The Claimant's husband supported her claim in his witness statement.
Crucially the claim was supported by three Schedules of Loss over a period of time in addition to witness statements from both the Claimant and her husband, all endorsed with Statements of Truth. Furthermore the Claimant obtained reports from several medical experts each reiterating the Claimant's insistence that she continued to suffer problems with her mobility after the accident hence the claim for care and assistance which would be needed for the rest of her life.
Covert video surveillance evidence was obtained which demonstrated the Claimant's true capacity. The Claimant was shown walking freely without any physical assistance and in the light of this evidence, the medical experts prepared a revised report confirming their belief that the Claimant had significantly exaggerated her symptoms.
An earlier Supreme Court decision of Summers v Fairclough Homes ruled that the Court did have power under its inherent jurisdiction to strike out a case where there was an abuse of process caused by fraudulent exaggeration. However the Court ruled that the power was only to be exercised when it was just and proportionate to do so and the Court on that case decided that the power was not exercisable on those facts.
A little over 3 months after the Summers decision, at first instance, the District Judge heard the evidence surrounding Barbara Fari's claim for £750,000 damages and found that the Claimant had significantly exaggerated her symptoms and endorsed a view that the sums claimed were "outrageous". The Judge found that the Claimant had dishonestly and deliberately given the medical experts a false impression that her condition was worse than it actually was. He assessed her claim as truly being worth approximately £1500.
Due to the serious and deliberate attempt by the Claimant to claim that she was significantly more disabled than she actually was, the Judge decided that, on this occasion, it was just and proportionate to exercise the power referred to in the Summers case above and struck out her claim in its entirety.
In addition to seeking a strike out of the claim, following this adjudication, an application was made for the committal of both the Claimant and her husband for contempt of Court given that her claim, and his support for her claim, was so exaggerated as to be considered an abuse of process.
Both Claimant and her husband have been found in contempt of Court and are currently awaiting sentence.
It has long since been the Defendant's wish that a Claimant exaggerating one aspect of their claim should lose the entirety of their claim where the exaggeration is sufficiently serious as to render the claim an abuse of process. Courts have been repeatedly reluctant to support such a view. There was initial euphoria when the Summers decision was handed down. For the first time the Court confirmed that in fact it did have the power to strike out the entirety of an exaggerated claim even where there was a legitimate element to the claim. Whilst there was disappointment that the Supreme Court on the Summers case declined to exercise that power, the court did so in Fari.
It is to be hoped that the Fari case demonstrates a greater willingness on the part of the Court to offer stiff sanctions to those abusing the Court process and whilst it remains that only the most serious of exaggerations will warrant such a sanction, it is clearly a step in the right direction that cases of this nature will be sanctioned. A finding of contempt further reinforced the strongest possible message as to how fraudsters may be treated in the future.