A Bodmin family’s Labrador, found himself at the centre of a legal dispute after a delivery driver claimed that the ‘active, lively and friendly’ dog had damaged his car and his arm to the tune of £3,000.

Six-year-old Labrador Marley was accused of scratching the paintwork on Sean Dore’s car and biting his arm as Mr Dore delivered a takeaway meal to a farmhouse near Bodelva, south Cornwall, in July 2021. The following day, Mr Dore, 37, of Trewoon, St Austell, presented Marley’s owners with a quote for £185 for scratches on his car to be repaired and subsequently filed a claim for injury worth up to £3,000.

But Marley’s owners’ home insurer AXA was suspicious, particularly when the family’s evidence that Marley had been friendly and at most bumped into Mr Dore, was backed up by CCTV footage showing Marley, tail wagging, enthusiastically greeting the delivery driver. Medical examinations also found no sign of the ‘deep scratches’ Mr Dore said the dog had inflicted.

Mr Dore attempted to claim that the video footage had been ‘doctored’ but Deputy District Judge Healey sitting at Plymouth County Court dismissed his case as ‘fundamentally dishonest’ and ordered Mr Dore to pay Marley’s owners’ legal costs worth £4,788.90.

Clyde & Co was instructed by AXA and conducted the investigation into Mr Dore’s claim.

Damian Rourke, partner at Clyde & Co in Manchester, said: “When Sean Dore met Marley, he clearly thought he’d found a cunning way of getting his car repaired for free and earn some quick money. But Mr Dore underestimated both Marley’s owners and the power of surveillance technologies. Living in a remote area, Marley’s owners had had CCTV installed to monitor access to their driveway. But it wasn’t just the footage that helped our investigators. Other aspects of Mr Dore’s claim didn’t add up including vanishing puncture marks, his failure to seek medical attention and a false claim he’d called the NHS 111 phone number – all hallmarks of a dishonest insurance claim.”

Dean Witherington, Retail Claims Director at AXA UK said: “Insurance fraud is a serious crime which has significant consequences for fraudsters but sadly also results in higher insurance premiums for honest customers as insurers are faced with increased costs. For this reason, AXA UK is committed to pursuing fraudulent cases to ensure we can prioritise protecting our customers. This finding of fundamental dishonesty from Mr Dore shows the importance of investigation and expertise in fighting against fraud.”

In their evidence to the court, Marley’s owners described their family pet as ‘an active, lively and friendly dog, typical of the Labrador breed’. Marley, they said, had no propensity to bite and had been under their control at all times during Mr Dore’s visit.

The hearing took place at Plymouth County Court on Friday 13 October 2023.