Fari v Homes for Haringey [09.10.12]

Claimant’s fraudulently exaggerated claim struck out as abuse of process under Civil Procedure Rules; Supreme Court principles in Summers v Fairclough Homes Ltd [2012].

Comment

This judgment saw the Court strike out a claim for personal injuries despite the Defendant having previously admitted liability and both parties’ medical experts agreeing that the Claimant had sustained an aggravation and acceleration of a pre-existing deformity in a knee.

The rationale behind this decision was that the Claimant had exaggerated her claim by such an extent that it amounted to a fraud. The Judge indicated that he was following the guidance of the Supreme Court in Summers v Fairclough Homes Ltd [2012] - striking out the claim that amounted to an abuse of process, with the actual value of the claim representing less than 0.5% of the pleaded value.

Not only was the claim struck out in its entirety, but it was also ordered that the Claimant make an interim payment in respect of the Defendant’s costs. In addition, permission was given to transfer the claim to the High Court to allow contempt proceedings to be pursued against the Claimant and her husband (who provided false evidence on behalf of the Claimant). The Claimant was granted leave to appeal by 30 October 2012.

The case illustrates the importance of obtaining surveillance evidence, where indicated. In this instance, it is clear the Defendant considered there was no benefit in keeping their powder dry until trial and that a pre-emptive strike against the Claimant could achieve the desired result, without incurring further time and cost.

This judgment should encourage insurers to contemplate such applications against dishonest claimants, including testing the thresholds of how much a pleaded claim would need to exceed that of the "genuine" claim before the court will consider it an abuse of process.

Background

The Claimant alleged she had injured her right knee after tripping on an uneven paving slab in May 2008. The Claimant’s pleaded schedule of loss exceeded £700,000 – largely in regard to ongoing care.

Prior to trial, the Defendant made an application to strike out the claim on the basis that it was exaggerated and amounted to an abuse of process.

Decision

Sitting in the Central London County Court, His Honour Judge Mitchell found that the Claimant had suffered a minor injury worth no more than £1,500.

Judge Mitchell accepted the claim involved an attempt to deceive the court and it was just and proportionate to strike out the claim in its entirety.

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