CUNYT TAZEGUL v BRIGHTHOUSE LIMITED

(ex tempore judgment as yet unreported)

The Claimant brought a claim for damages in respect of personal injuries sustained in a road traffic accident on 29 September 2014 against the Defendant. The matter proceeded to trial in April 2016 before HHJ Coltart in the County Court at Lewes. The Claimant was supported in his version of events by a witness put forward as wholly independent.

At the luncheon adjournment of the trial, this witness had not yet attended court, but did so for the afternoon sitting. It was explained that the witness had been traced by the Claimant's wife via Facebook. This excited the suspicion of the representative of the Defendant's insurance company who, via his mobile telephone at court, uncovered what appeared to be a link between the two. Both the Claimant and the witness steadfastly denied knowing one another when questioned in court.

On balance, whilst expressing some initial concern as to the independence of the witness, the court found for the Claimant and awarded damages and costs. Special dames included loss of earnings for some three months; the Claimant maintaining that he could not work as a nightclub doorman for a period of six months post-accident.

Thereafter, much further evidence was obtained linking the Claimant and his witness. This included evidence that the Claimant and witness commented upon social media posts of highly personal material, including a photograph of the witness' partner and son, and a 'selfie' photograph of the Claimant stripped to the waist at the gym. Additionally numerous photographs of the Claimant appearing to be working within the relevant six month period were also obtained from social media.

The Defendant appealed partially on the ground that the evidence before the trial judge was fraudulent and perjured on the basis of the further information which had come to light.

Mr Justice Spencer heard the appeal in July 2016: [2016] EWHC 2277 (QB) (see also http://1chancerylane.com/brighthouse-ltd-v-tazegul-2016/) and held that the evidence amounted to a prima facie case of fraud and perjury which, if proven, would be material to the decision below. He remitted the matter to be tried on this specific issue before HHJ Coltart.

At the listed hearing on 17 January 2017, HHJ Coltart recused himself on the basis that the Claimant had spoken to him in friendly terms at a railway station following the trial.

The matter came this week (7 and 8 June 2017) before HHJ Waddicor, sitting at the County Court at Brighton. Having heard a day and a half of evidence from the Defendant's insurer's fraud investigator, the Claimant and two other witnesses she gave a detailed ex tempore judgment, a transcript of which will be made public ally available in due course.

The learned judge held that Mr Tazegul had deliberately and dishonestly misled the court at trial as to the proximity of his relationship with the allegedly independent witness. She also held that Mr Tazegul lied about being unable to work as a doorman for financial gain. She held that the judgment below was obtained by virtue of the Claimant's fraud and perjury and that he continued to perjury himself in his subsequent witness statement and before her at the instant trial.

Having ordered Mr Tazegul to pay all the Defendant's costs to be assessed on the indemnity basis, she directed the matter be referred to the Designated Civil Judge for consideration for a referral to the Attorney General for the purposes of contempt proceedings and to the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider criminal charges.

This is another (but probably not the last) chapter in what became for the Defendant, or rather its insurers a long and drawn out process to get to the truth in this unusual case where, by a chance occurrence, strong and cogent evidence of contumacious fraud and perjury had been obtained.

1 Chancery Lane's Thomas Crockett appeared for the successful Defendant.