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Published 30 January 2018
When is an exaggerated claim so exaggerated as to be fundamentally dishonest, resulting in its being struck out in accordance with s.57 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015?
The High Court was required to consider this question in London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games v Sinfield, in which Mr Justice Knowles's judgment was handed down on 22 January 2018.
A volunteer at the 2012 Games, the Claimant suffered fractures to his left arm in an accident for which liability was admitted. His claim included past and future gardening of £13,953, which equated to 28% of the total claim presented.
In defending the claim, the Defendant obtained witness evidence from the Claimant's gardener, who gave evidence that the invoices served by the Claimant were false, that he had worked for the Claimant for seven years before the accident, that the Claimant had not looked after the garden prior to the accident, and that his working hours for the Claimant did not change after the accident.
After service of the gardener's statement, the Claimant served an amended Schedule of Special Damages in which the claim for gardening was reduced, dramatically, to £1,658.
Whilst at first instance, at the trial on quantum, the judge found that the Claimant's actions were dishonest, he declined to make a finding that the claim was fundamentally dishonest as the dishonesty did not contaminate the entirety of the claim and was peripheral to it.
The question was reconsidered by Knowles J on appeal, who decided that the Claimant's original claim for special damages, supported by false invoices, and the witness evidence supporting it were dishonest misstatements, and that the presentation of the dishonest claim impacted on the claim in a significant way. Knowles J found that the trial judge should have found the Claimant to have been fundamentally dishonest and, whilst the greater part of his claim was honest, the intention of Parliament in s.57 was for the entire claim in such circumstances to be struck out.
To date the Counter Fraud team at DAC Beachcroft have seen a number of low value legitimate claims struck out pursuant to s 57. In each case either the Claimant has performed so poorly in giving evidence on a false personal injury claim that the legitimate financial loss claim has been struck out or the Claimant's genuine claim for personal injury has been struck out for supporting the claim of a phantom passenger.
This judgment should however encourage Defendants and their representatives to apply for exaggerated larger value claims to be struck out as even where the lion's share of the claim is genuine, dishonestly pursuing heads of loss may allow the Defendants to apply for the entirety of the claim to be dismissed; presenting claims where heads of loss are significantly exaggerated will expose Claimants to the risk of losing their entitlement to the entirety of the claim.
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