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Dishonest claims can result in prison – Judges warned to approach with caution

A claimant has been jailed for 3 months following a landmark decision for a dishonest clinical negligence claim against the NHS.

HJ Spencer said the judgement should be a ‘warning to all’, this being the first contempt case pursued by an NHS Trust.

The claimant, a part-time DJ and courier driver, attempted to claim £837k for personal injuries in relation to finger and facial injuries suffered following treatment at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

He claimed that his injuries prevented him working as a driver and affected his DJ ability when video surveillance showed he was perfectly able to drive, lift and carry and continued to work and his DJ career continued, he even featured in a music video performing with dancers and musicians.

HJ Spencer found 14 allegations proved against the claimant‘s claim for care costs saying it was based on ‘wholly false and fraudulent premise’

HJ Spencer felt that an immediate custodial sentence was necessary to the mark seriousness of such conduct to the public and to deter others. A £75k costs order was also awarded against the claimant.

This follows two recent High Court appeals considered by the same HJ Spencer.

HJ Spencer allowed appeals of two Defendants’ and dismissed separate claims heard by the same HHJ Main QC at first instance. HJ Spencer said "…HHJ Main QC adopted a much too benevolent approach to evidence from a claimant which could be demonstrated to be inconsistent, unreliable and, on occasions, simply untruthful.”

The background to the appeals in Richards & McGrann v Morris & Molodi v Cambridge Vibration Maintenance Service & Aviva Insurance Limited centered on errant witness statements, inconsistencies with the CNF, exaggerated and invented special damages and unreliable medical evidence.

In both claims the three Claimants had exaggerated their injuries and failed to give accurate information to the medical expert. They had also made false claims in their schedule of loss, one claiming for the write off value of her car which had subsequently been stolen and the loss already recovered, the second claiming for cost of repairs at three times the actual price and the third claiming for non-existent physiotherapy sessions.

HJ Spencer made significant points about the importance of the CNF to the contrary of HHJ Main QC; confirming that they are important documents, they provide the basis for possible proceedings for contempt of court and valuable information at an early stage.

HJ Spencer further noted that judges in the County Court should approach such claims with a ‘degree of caution, if not suspicion’.

In the appeal of Morris, HJ Spencer was unable to make a finding of fundamental dishonesty as he had not seen or heard the Claimants; however in Aviva Insurance Limited appeal HJ Spencer confirms that a finding of fundamental dishonesty should have been made:

"…I nevertheless consider that this is one of those rare cases where the weight of the other evidence, and in particular the inconsistencies and the failure truthfully to account to the medical expert in relation to previous medical history and previous accidents and the dishonesty in relation to the special damages are such as to justify overturning the finding of Judge Main QC that, having heard the Claimant, he could rely on his evidence as to the fact that he had been injured and as to the duration of his symptom.”

These cases should stand as a reminder for all Claimant firms to carefully consider their claims and the risks that may be presented in terms of fraud and fundamental dishonesty, which does not of course have to be specifically pleaded.

A note of caution, as Defendant insurers will not pay out for such claims, neither will the fraudulent Claimant’s After the Event Insurer should such a claim fail.

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