09 November, 2015
Elias Hatia v Bolton Council
The District Judge diplomatically described this highway tripping claim as "a difficult case to try to determine". Whilst she commented that it is wrong to expect a case to be completely consistent and flawless, this case was riddled with inconsistencies and matters which were simply improbable.
The inaccuracies in the Claimant's case began with the initial letter before action, which crucially contained the incorrect location of the alleged accident and an inconsistent account of the accident circumstances.
As you would expect, the Claimant had attended his GP following the accident. The medical records reported a fall and noted "bruise and small laceration. Complains of pain". The Judge commented that if the Claimant had submitted a claim stating he had fallen at that location, suffered an ankle injury which had recovered within 6 weeks then she could have accepted the Claimant's evidence and the explanation of the inconsistencies.
However, the Claimant had instead submitted a substantial claim for a multi-site injury with significant ongoing pain, accompanied by a significant claim for special damages relating to care and assistance. The District Judge exclaimed "it's a miracle he ever gets out of bed!" The claim was wholly unsupported by evidence, and whilst he described that the pain suffered as a result of the accident severely affected his life on a daily basis, he had not sought any treatment whatsoever.
The Claimant was cross-examined for over two hours and blamed the inconsistencies in his evidence on his solicitors. When cross examination had finished the District Judge invited him to sit down next to his solicitor before quipping "Be careful he doesn't hit you!"
The claim was unsurprisingly dismissed.
The District Judge made some interesting comments following her judgment, she indicated that if the claim had been issued post 13th April 2015 she would have struck the entire case out due to the exaggerated claim. Whilst she was keen to stress in this instance that there was no suggestion of fraud or dishonesty, her comments are encouraging for defendants, and indicate that judges will be open and willing to making findings of fundamental dishonesty when considering cases issued under the new regime. The Claims Handlers, Gallagher Bassett, maintained a robust stance pre-litigation pointing out the many inaccuracies which clearly fell on deaf ears!
To make a finding of "fundamental dishonesty", judges need only be satisfied that the Claimant has been fundamentally dishonest on the balance of probabilities. Where a finding of fundamental dishonesty is made in respect of any part of the claim, the entire claim must be struck out (even if parts of the claim were genuine) and the Claimant will be ordered to pay the Defendants costs.
For further information contact Ridwaan Ormar on 01254 222457 firstname.lastname@example.org