Zeeshan Ditta Mahmood v Calderdale MBC - HHJ Cockroft - January 2012

Article

13 February, 2012

Forbes Insurance Department represented Calderdale MBC in a tripping claim brought by Zeeshan Ditta Mahmood. It was alleged by Mahmood that he had tripped as a result of a raised flagstone created by the removal of a tree from a tree pit. The Council admitted a breach of duty but required Mahmood to prove that the accident had occurred as he alleged.

The trial of this matter was heard on Thursday 19 January 2012, just 3 days after the trial of Kashif Mohammed v Calderdale MBC. Like Mahmood, Kashif Mohammed claimed to have been involved in a tripping accident in Halifax whilst walking home after 'window shopping' in the town centre. Mohammed's claim was successfully defended at trial on causation only, with the trial judge not satisfied that the accident had occurred as alleged. This matter was the subject of an earlier article.

Calderdale MBC's insurance officers and its insurer, Zurich, had identified that a number of suspicious claims against the Council could apparently be linked to the same accident management company. Investigations carried out by Forbes' Anti Fraud Department saw both direct and indirect links established between a number of these claimants. One of these claimants had previously been convicted of offences under the Terrorism Act 2008. The claimant in this matter formed part of this apparent network of claimants.

As with Kashif Mohammed, the evidence showed that Mahmood contacted the accident management company to commence his claim before he sought medical treatment.

The claimant belatedly introduced a witness to support his claim but detailed analysis of the claimant's own evidence revealed glaring errors which the claimant, predictably, blamed on the mistakes of others. The most damaging discrepancy in the evidence saw the claimant state that he had called his friend following the accident and that this friend, who would later give a witness statement confirming that this was the case, had collected the claimant from the scene of the accident in his car. This directly contradicted the evidence of the medical expert who was adamant that when he examined the claimant, he was informed that the claimant had walked the five minute journey home post accident.

When giving evidence at trial, the claimant's oral testimony contradicted his witness statement and the sheer weight of contradictory evidence unearthed fatally undermined the claimant's credibility.

The trial judge was unconvinced by the claimant or his witness. He also refused to accept that the medical expert had erred as the claimant had suggested.

The trial judge ultimately found that the issues arising and the discrepancies in the evidence were fatal to the claim which was dismissed with the claimant ordered to pay the defendant's costs.

Forbes Comment

As a result of working closely with the council's insurers, Zurich, and with Calderdale MBC's in-house teams, Forbes' Anti Fraud Department once again successfully defended at trial a tripping claim made against Calderdale MBC in part due to suspicions that it was one of a number of orchestrated tripping claims.

Following on from Kashif Mohammed v Calderdale MBC, the trial judge again acknowledged the difficulties faced by defendants in the defence of claims where no statutory defence exists. Only by undermining the claimant's case by forensic scrutiny of the claimant's own evidence and by obtaining evidence to counter the claim presented was the claim successfully challenged and costs recovered.

For further information please contact Philip Harding on 01254 662831 or email philip.harding@forbessolicitors.co.uk

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