Claimant jailed for contempt of court
The claimant alleged that he had sustained a brain injury so severe as to render him incapable of work of any type.
Claimant jailed for contempt of court after a finding of fundamental dishonesty in light of damning surveillance evidence and misleading test results at medical examination. Weightmans acted on behalf of the insurance company at Leeds District Registry.
The claimant brought a claim against his previous employer following being struck on the head by falling packing cases in the workplace and suffering injury. Liability for the accident was not disputed and the presence of a genuine injury admitted.
However, the claimant alleged that he had sustained a brain injury so severe as to render him incapable of work of any type, to self-care or leave the house unaccompanied. This was contrary to surveillance evidence showing him out of the house and attending a normal shopping trip.
In addition, and more unusually, when the claimant attended for neuropsychological testing the experts for both parties concluded that he was failing the tests intentionally in order to maximise damages. The extent of this underperformance was described by one of the experts as “striking”.
With the support of the instructing insurer an application was made for permission to amend the defence to plead fundamental dishonesty, which was granted. The claimant later admitted dishonesty which led to an application for permission to bring committal proceedings (a private prosecution) for contempt of court.
In Leeds District Registry HHJ Gosnell, the designated civil judge, found that the fraud was premeditated and intentional, and that the claim did not succeed in the face of the evidence. When passing sentence the judge commented that the harm from dishonest claims such as this was not limited to the “at fault” insurance company, but extended to the wider legal system in wasting court time and (more fundamentally) undermining the system of just compensation. The judge noted that those who bring fraudulent claims should expect a custodial sentence in order to deter others from bringing similar claims.
The maximum sentence for contempt of court is two years or a £2,500 fine. Since this claim began as a genuine injury and became fraudulent as the claim progressed, the full term was deemed inappropriate. Given the early plea the claimant was allowed a discount of 20%, and the judge took into account his lack of previous convictions.
The claimant was sentenced to 24 weeks for contempt of court, 12 weeks in prison and 12 weeks on licence.
The fact that the judge sent this particularly flagrant fraudster to prison and did not elect to suspend the sentence despite previous good character illustrates quite how seriously the courts are taking cases such as this. This is another example of a claimant taking the wrong path in an attempt to maximise their “pay day” following an accident. The tenacity of the insurer client, once a finding of fundamental dishonesty under S.57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 had been secured, in pursuing the prosecution should be applauded.
For further guidance on this case and its implications, contact our insurance fraud solicitors.