Aimee Turner v Michael Heap Limited [2018] CC (Bradford) 08/02/2018

The Judge concluded that the reports had no evidential value, causation for the injury could not be established and accordingly the general damages claim failed. The Judge then utilised Section 57 to dismiss the entirety of the claim.

Background

The Claimant alleged she had suffered a substantial injury and psychological damage, claiming numerous associated heads of loss.

We established several inconsistencies in the Claimant's medical evidence:

  • The Claimant was examined by a GP one month post-accident, stating that her car had lifted and bounced back during the collision. Again, during a discussion with an orthopaedic expert, she again reported immediate pain to her neck and also reported to him that her car had been lifted up as a result of a glancing collision. However, in evidence she gave to her general medical expert, she reported that the collision was head-on, and she feared for her life.
  • Furthermore, the Claimant had told her GP one month post-accident that she was 50% improved, whereas when examined by the orthopaedic expert two years post-accident she stated that there had been no improvement. The Claimant also reported to the general medical expert that she continued to suffer symptoms for three years post-accident.

The matter proceeded to Trial. After hearing the evidence of the parties, judgment was reserved as the Judge wished to consider whether or not the Claimant was fundamentally dishonest.

Outcome

  • Liability was split on a 50/50 basis.
  • The Judge concluded the Claimant's medical reports were of no value due to the inconsistencies between them, and therefore, the Claimant could not establish causation for the injury she allegedly suffered. The Judge dismissed the claim for general damages and invoked Section 57 to dismiss the rest of the claim; namely the associated special damages claim;
  • The only element of the special damages claim which would succeed was the claim in respect of vehicle damage. All other special damages were linked to the alleged injury and could not be proved.As liability was apportioned on a 50/50 basis, the vehicle damage award would have been £750;
  • Using the provisions of Section 57, the Judge assessed our costs in the sum of £14,700, less the ‘genuine’ element of the claim of £750, resulting in a total award for our costs in the sum of £13,950.

What can we learn?

  • The Judge found the Claimant had exaggerated her injuries to the point where he was unable to assess the value, resulting in the dismissal of the general damages claims. The Judge then elected to invoke the provisions of Section 57 in order to dismiss the claim for special damages.
  • The Judge concluded that there was fundamental dishonesty, as it was not sufficient to say that the claimant was "confused, muddled and careless". The information given to the medical experts was incorrect, and the Claimant had approved the contents of the reports (whether explicitly or otherwise) by allowing service of those reports.
  • Interestingly, this decision stands in contrast to another recent decision in which it was found that the Claimant, relying upon a care report to support an exaggerated future care claim, was not fundamentally dishonest. This had a striking juxtaposition to this claim, as the Claimant himself admitted under cross-examination that his future care claim was not a valid claim, yet had served a schedule of loss using the report as evidence in support of this loss.
  • The case law referring to Section 57 is developing, and conflicting case law continues to arise. The two cases discussed above suggest possible conflicting judicial views on the reliance of expert reports to support claims, and whether or not the dismissal of the contents of those reports automatically leads to a finding of fundamental dishonesty, or just the dismissal of the element of the claim to which the report relates. Further appellate guidance on the operation of Section 57 would be welcome by all parties and their legal representatives.