Court of Appeal in personal injury fraud crackdown
A recent Court of Appeal decision (Zurich Insurance v Romaine 2019) indicates a crackdown on personal injury fraud says Kelvin Farmaner, Partner with Trethowans Solicitors in Southampton.
Details of the fraudulent case
Mr Romaine worked as an engineer in the 1970s and 1980s for a company insured by Zurich. He brought court proceedings alleging noise induced hearing loss. A medical report attached to the proceedings stated that he had not had any noisy hobbies. The proceedings included Particulars of Claim which contained a statement of truth signed by Mr Romaine’s Solicitor on his behalf. The company however obtained medical records, which suggested that the Claimant was a professional singer and a motorcyclist.
The Claimant was asked questions about this but denied being a professional singer in a reply to those questions. He also denied being either a singer or a motorcyclist in a witness statement. Both the reply and the statement contained a statement of truth. The insurers instructed an investigator who found from the Claimant’s Facebook page that he was said to have an interest in motorcycles and he sang and played guitar in a rock and roll band which regularly performed and rehearsed.
It therefore seemed to the insurers that the Claimant’s account of having no hobbies which were potential sources of noise exposure was untrue. This evidence was served with notice that the insurer would make an application to strike out the Claimant’s claim. Before any such application was made the Claimant discontinued the claim.
In light of events Zurich issued committal proceedings alleging contempt of court through making a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth. However the High Court Judge decided that although there did appear to be a case for saying the Claimant had made false statements, the Claimant had not been warned that he might have committed a contempt of court such as to merit his committal and that was a relevant factor in deciding whether to give permission. He also considered it relevant that the Claimant had almost immediately discontinued the claim after receiving the investigator’s evidence.
The decision of the Court of Appeal
On appeal the Court of Appeal decided that the High Court Judge had made an error in refusing permission to allow Zurich to bring committal proceedings. The Court said that he had taken account of the irrelevant matter of the absence of a warning and he had not taken into account the relevant matter that the mischief that early discontinuance of claims represented in the hands of unscrupulous Claimants and lawyers bringing false personal injury claims.
This decision must stand as a clear warning that a dishonest Claimant will not avoid the consequences of his actions by simply dropping the case when it becomes clear he is on to a loser. This is an important case for insurers and businesses alike that frequently face claims such as these which arise from events which may have taken place a long time ago and which are already difficult to investigate.
If you have a legitimate case you would like to bring, our personal injury solicitors would be happy to help. Contact leading law firm Trethowans today on 0800 2800 421 to discuss the details of your claim.