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Brookes and Others v Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company Limited, Queen's Bench Divisional Court, 14 October 2011

27 October 2011
The issues

Fraud – contempt of court – committal.

The facts

The claimant, Mrs Thereza Daoud claimed for damages for personal injury against the bus company when she was knocked down by a bus driven by an employee of the company. The claim was settled. Mrs Brookes the first defendant and Mrs Tynan the second defendant were married daughters of Mrs Daoud. The third defendant Mr Nabil Tadrous was their father and Mrs Daoud’s husband. An application on behalf of the bus company was made to commit the defendants for contempt of court on the basis that they had dishonestly misrepresented the extend of the disabilities from which Mrs Daoud was suffering and in particular they represented her as having very limited mobility when the true position was, for practical purposes, of unlimited mobility.

False representations were alleged to be made in the course of examinations or assessments of her by various experts. At the heart of the case was surveillance evidence which was relied upon as revealing a mismatch between Mrs Daoud’s actual condition and her condition as represented by the defendants. Mrs Daoud herself had suffered a severe brain injury in the accident and it had been thought at first that she might die. The issues in the case related to the extend of her recovery after rehabilitation, sufficient to enable her to return home into the care of her family just before Christmas 2005. In the course of the personal injury claim each of the defendants had made a witness statement, with a signed statement of truth in support of the damages element of the claim. Both statements were made in 2009. The insurers had surveyed Mrs Daoud between May 2007 and 2009. In mid-2009 after all the witness statements had been signed the insurers disclosed the surveillance evidence. In order to succeed in proceedings for contempt of court it had to be shown and proved beyond reasonable doubt in respect of each statement relied upon that it was false; that it had or would have been likely to have interfered with the course of justice in some material respects; and at the time it was made, the maker of the statement had no honest belief in the truth of the statement and knew of its likelihood to interfere with the course of justice (Walton v Kirk 2009).

Whilst it was not the case on the basis of the surveillance DVD’s that Mrs Daoud had for all practical purposes unlimited mobility she was undoubtedly much more mobile than had been presented to the experts. She did not use a walking aid of any kind, sometimes took a person’s arm but was also seen walking by herself for substantial periods of time. She was able to walk distances far in excess of those represented to the experts and was seen walking with shopping bags in her hand. She was not only able to walk up and down steps with ease but was actually seen to trot or run up them. This was in sharp contrast to the evidence given by the defendants and representations made by them to the various experts. The impression had been conveyed to the experts was of a lady with very limited mobility who was heavily depended on walking aids and could only walk slowly and for short distances. Taking the defendant’s in order, as to Mrs Brookes there was nothing in her witness statement that satisfied the second condition for a finding in contempt.

As to Mrs Tynan and Mr Tadrous similarly there was nothing in their witness statements satisfying the second condition for a finding for contempt. The insurers claim based on the witness statements therefore failed in respect of all three defendants. In relation to Mrs Brookes and Mr Tadrous however, there were remaining counts in respect of false statements and representations made to the experts. Both Mrs Brookes and Mr Tadrous must have known that the relevant statements and representations that they had made at the examinations and assessments which they had attended were false. A contrast between what was said or represented and the truth concerning Mrs Daoud’s general mobility was too great to allow for the possibility of misunderstanding or mere oversight. The consequence of those false representations if persisted with and if not discovered in time was that Mrs Daoud was likely to have succeeded in obtaining a significantly higher reward of damages than she had done and thereby there would have been an interference with the course of justice. Both Mrs Brookes and Mr Tadrous must have known the likelihood of the false statements and representations, if persisted in, would have had that affect. There was no master plan to put forward a fraudulent claim by both of them appreciated that the greater the degree physical disability that Mrs Daoud’s was found to have, the greater would be likely award of damages. Mrs Brookes and Mr Tadrous therefore, were found in contempt of court. The case against Mrs Tynan was dismissed.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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