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finally, section 57 finds its teeth - tainted claim dismissed for dishonesty, despite ‘honest’ elements

24 January 2018
It is pleasing finally to see Parliament’s intentions in relation to s57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 being implemented by the judiciary in relation to fraudulent claims.

The High Court on appeal has given guidance on when ‘fundamental dishonesty’ should bite and must lead to the whole claim being dismissed even where elements of the claim are genuine – where the defendant proves on the balance of probabilities that the claimant has acted dishonestly in relation to the primary claim and/or a related claim and that he has substantially affected the presentation of his case, either in respects of liability or quantum, in a way which potentially adversely affected the defendant in a significant way.

The claimant Mr Sinfield was a volunteer at the 2012 London Olympics. He was injured fracturing his left wrist, liability for which was admitted. His case was that a substantial part of his past and future losses related to the services of a gardener – to tend his 2 acre garden. These amounted to 41.9% of the Specials claim and 28% of damages overall. He provided disclosure of invoices from one gardener, and witness evidence detailing the additional needs.

The gardener was located and provided evidence which highlighted the invoices as false and created by Mr Sinfield and that the amount of work had not changed even after the injury. In response the claimant sought to explain the discrepancy by way of further statement and revised schedule – which the judge at first instance accepted was ‘slightly inaccurate’ and the Claimant ‘not good with words’ and ‘muddled and confused’. Exaggeration and dishonesty were denied.

It was argued that the Judge erred in finding as a fact that the claimants assertions ‘muddled’ when the statements were plainly dishonest, and finding the gardening claim not fundamentally dishonest, in relation to the claim as a whole. The Judge awarded damages in the sum of £27,758.79 with costs some of which were apportioned and dismissing the charge that if the whole claim was dismissed there would be substantial injustice.

On appeal the Judge was found to have been mistaken not to conclude that the statements made about gardening were dishonest, that the manufacture of invoices and his first witness statement was fundamentally dishonest in relation to the whole claim or that the mere loss of some genuine damages constituted substantial injustice. On those grounds the whole claim failed. It is hoped this clarification will reduce fraudulent claims, and also act as a suitable deterrent to those contemplating ‘inaccurate’ misstatements for financial gain.

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