Dublin Circuit Court recently invoked Section 26 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 in dismissing a series of fraudulent claims by a number of individuals involved in no less than 6 road traffic accidents. The alleged accidents took place between 7 July 2014 and 17 October 2016. The key fraud indicators were the following;
- No Gardai were called to any of the accidents;
- A number of the cars involved were only insured a couple of days before the accidents;
- There was some relationship or connection with each of the Plaintiffs and/or each of the Defendants;
- The accidents mostly involved low-speed rear ending with minor material damage to the vehicles.
Section 26 of the 2004 Act requires the Court to dismiss a personal injuries action where the Plaintiff gives evidence that is false or misleading in any material respect and where he or she knows it to be false or misleading.
Peter Slattery or his partner Belinda McLoughlin were the primary people involved in each accident.
Four Plaintiff actions came before Judge Groarke, the President of the Circuit Court. It was established that three of the four Plaintiffs failed to disclose details of previous personal injuries in their Replies to Particulars.
The Defence was successful in demonstrating close friendships and connections between each of the Plaintiffs. Some had grown up as neighbours in the same area, others knew each other through family and others had connections in the gym, the local beauty salon and other local businesses. Some of the Plaintiffs attended the same parties and had gone on holiday together. Judge Groarke determined that these connections were “very material in the context of the enquiry being made by the court”. There was also efforts made by the Plaintiffs to distance themselves from each other and mislead the Court as to their knowledge and relationship with each other. Judge Groarke was “extremely concerned” about the lies told to the court;
“Coincidences happen in real life, but the evidence in this case which discloses coincidences of almost astonishing nature really push the explanation of coincidences off the cliff.”
In relation to Slattery and McLoughlin, Judge Groarke stated that it “invites great suspicion” that they were the common denominator in each of the accidents. He concluded that Slattery had “but a passing familiarity with the truth” and that none of his evidence was credible. He was also satisfied that Mr. Slattery would be entirely comfortable in engaging in a scam to facilitate the arrangement of fraudulent claims.
Judge Groarke was satisfied that the accidents were planned and that fraud was the rational conclusion. He dismissed all of the claims.
This decision highlights the robust approach that the Courts will take when presented with clear evidence of fraud. The challenge for insurers is in balancing the cost of assembling and presenting all of the evidence, against the reality that none of those costs are ever likely to be recovered.
Perhaps 2017 will be seen as a turning point in the ongoing battle against fraudulent claims. Going forward, Plaintiffs can expect a more robust examination of their claims, their previous accidents and backgrounds when certain indicators of fraud are present. In addition, it can be expected that more referrals will be made to the DPP or complaints to An Garda Síochána by insurance companies.
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