Fraudster who sued council for bogus highway accident found guilty by High Court
Doncaster MBC established contempt of court in committal proceedings against a claimant who lied about suffering an injury on the public highway.
Doncaster MBC v Benjamin Grix – Sheffield High Court, HHJ Robinson
Doncaster MBC established contempt of court in committal proceedings against a claimant who lied about suffering an injury on the public highway. The claimant was sentenced to four months in prison.
Mr Grix alleged he injured his knee when he tripped and fell in September 2013 as a result of a hole in the pavement. He issued proceedings in September 2016 but the case was promptly discontinued when the council filed a defence highlighting the claimant’s Facebook posts in which he stated that the injury had been caused when he was playing football. The council successfully secured a finding of fundamental dishonesty in the civil case and a consequential order for costs. An application was then made to the High Court for permission to bring proceedings for contempt against the claimant on the basis that he had verified a statement of truth on court documents that contained facts that were untrue (CPR 81.17). The claimant admitted the fraud at the permission hearing and the case was adjourned for sentencing.
In passing sentence, the judge said that Mr Grix had told deliberate lies in an attempt to secure compensation and such fraudulent claims cost the insurance industry large sums of money every year. He added that our system of civil justice is based on the premise that people tell the truth and that “the system is so seriously damaged by fraud that people who make fraudulent claims must expect to be sent to prison”.
This was a matter that the council and insurers (Zurich Municipal) pursued because of the wider public interest in deterring fraudulent claims and protecting public funds. The findings of the court justified this approach. The custodial sentence imposed and the sentencing remarks of the High Court judge should leave dishonest claimants in no doubt about either the zero tolerance approach of local authorities to fraudulent claims or the grave consequences of their actions.
Peter Wake, Head of Local Government Claims at Weightmans LLP acted for Doncaster MBC in this case in conjunction with insurers Zurich Municipal.