Wright v Satellite Information Services Ltd [2018] EWHC 812 (QB)

In this case, the claimant was involved in an accident at work on 24 January 2014. He alleged that he sustained significant injuries that affected his right lower limb and that he had been unable to return to work following the accident.

Liability was admitted for the accident but quantum was in issue and the defendant sought the dismissal of the claim under section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 after obtaining video surveillance evidence supporting that the claimant was far less disabled than what he alleged.

The case went to trial and the judge held that there “…were some real inconsistencies in the claimant’s case, including as to how far he was able to walk; to what extent he needed to use a walking stick and the level of pain he suffered.” However, despite the inconsistencies with the claimant’s presentation of his symptoms, the judge held that the claimant was not guilty of dishonesty. Also, the judge indicated that if he had found that the claimant had been fundamentally dishonest, he would have not found that the claimant would suffer substantial injustice to prevent the claim from being dismissed.

The defendant appealed the decision and submitted that the claimant’s care claim was not for an insignificant amount when there was no need for ongoing care, which the claimant had accepted during cross examination. It was submitted that the care claim was falsely presented when the claimant must have known that he didn’t have such a claim.

The decision

The court noted that the reason for the judge’s rejection of the claim was not due to the fact that his evidence was untruthful. Instead it was held that the judge did not allow the future care claim because a proper interpretation of the evidence did not support the assessment that had been provided by the claimant’s care expert.

It was held that the judge had not been wrong for treating the failure to establish the care claim as amounting to a finding of dishonesty. Also, it was stated that it would have been surprising if the judge had made a finding of fundamental dishonesty on the basis that the claimant’s future care claim had been rejected.

The court distinguished the facts of this case from the facts of London Organising Committee of the Olympic & Paralympic Games v Sinfield [2018] EWHC 51 (QB). In Sinfield, the claimant had admitted to manufacturing false invoices to support a claim for gardening costs and there were false assertions of fact in their schedule of loss. As a result, the issue of dishonesty was a very prominent part of the trial and the gardening costs formed a significant part of the claim.

It was noted that the judge had focussed on the inconsistencies in the evidence which might support a finding of dishonesty and had correctly taken a balanced approach when weighing up the evidence.

The court held that the defendant’s appeal was essentially a challenge to the judge’s finding of facts and had not been satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, the defendant had established that the claimant had been fundamentally dishonest in respect of their claim. It was held that this decision was open to them to reach and the question of fundamental dishonesty is a matter for the trial judge “who had seen and heard all the evidence unless some material flaw in approach or his analysis can be identified.”

It was held that the judge’s approach could not be faulted and there was no basis for interfering with the judge’s findings.

The defendant’s appeal was dismissed.

What this means for you

In this case, the appeal judge was not prepared to interfere with the trial judge’s findings on the facts and specially held that it was open for the trial judge to reach the decision that he had in respect of the claimant not being fundamentally dishonest in respect of his claim.

It was specifically stated that the issue of fundamental dishonesty is essentially a matter for the trial judge to determine on the basis of the evidence presented. Here, the trial judge had disallowed the future care claim on the basis that the evidence did not support the assessment that had been provided by the claimant’s care expert rather than on the basis that the claimant had been dishonest.

The facts of each case carefully need to be assessed. Each case is fact specific and strong evidence is needed to show that the claimant had been dishonest and that this dishonesty is not trivial and impacted upon the whole of the claim. In this case, there were inconsistencies with the claimant’s evidence but on the whole it was held that he had been broadly consistent in what he had said in relation to any need for ongoing assistance.

For a finding of fundamental dishonesty under section 57 of the CJCA 2015, the dishonesty needs to go to the heart of the claim. It should be noted that a defendant is required to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that a claimant has been fundamentally dishonest in respect of their claim. The burden of proof on a defendant is high as it needs to be shown that the dishonesty is fundamental in the sense that it impacts upon the whole of the claim at the detriment of both the defendant and the court.