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Nield & Anor v Loveday, Divisional Court, 13 July 2011

25 July 2011
The issues

Contempt – committal – exaggerated claim – statement of truth – effect of withdrawn offer.

The facts

Graham Loveday brought a personal injury claim against Edward Nield following a road traffic accident. Mr Nield’s insurers had admitted liability, so the proceedings continued in respect of quantum only. Mr Loveday claimed that the accident had given him a painful soft tissue injury to the neck and lower back and that he could not work or drive and relied on a wheelchair frequently as he could barely walk. He said he had difficulty with stairs and had to be looked after by his wife. Mrs Loveday signed a statement supporting what her husband said.

Insurers for Mr Nield instructed a private investigator who produced evidence that Mr Loveday was more active than he said. The action was thereafter settled for far less than he had claimed and Mr Loveday agreed to pay Mr Nield’s costs, which were higher than the damages.

Mr Nield and his insurers brought contempt proceedings on the basis that the claim was inflated and contaminated by dishonesty. Mrs Loveday admitted her contempt. Mr Loveday said that when he signed the statements of truth he did not know what he was verifying.

The decision

The matter came before the Divisional Court. It was clear that Mr Loveday knew what his witness statement said as a draft of it had been produced marked with handwritten annotations containing information that only Mr Loveday knew. He and Mrs Loveday knew the risk of signing something that they did not believe and that that risk included imprisonment for contempt, because their solicitor had told them in writing. Although there was some evidence that the Claimant had been suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, that did not mean he had not read the documents or that he lacked the capacity to know whether or not they were true.

Mrs Loveday deserved credit for admitting the contempt and she benefitted from good character references.

Mr Loveday had not admitted his contempt and had even in oral evidence attempted to continue with the untruths.

Mrs Loveday was given a 6 month sentence, suspended for 18 months.

Mr Loveday was given a 9 month sentence and would be released after 4 1/2 months under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Section 258.

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