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Legal case

Judge finds fundamental dishonesty after ex-employee lies about his previous claims history

The Automobile Association have secured a finding of fundamental dishonesty against an ex-employee who attempted to claim over £40,000 compensation.

Sean Bithell, of Spinner Street, Stockport, presented a personal injury claim following an incident at work on the 11 April 2016. It was admitted that the back of an office chair broke, causing the claimant to fall backwards and twist, albeit he was able to steady himself by putting his hand onto the ground.

Colleagues did not believe he had sustained any injury. However, Mr Bithell brought a claim for financial compensation in which he alleged that the accident had caused a 10-year acceleration of symptoms in his back. He also alleged that he would require ongoing care and assistance from his wife for 10 years after the accident.

Suspicions were aroused by the level of alleged symptoms arising from what had been understood to be a minor incident and further investigations were initiated. A search of the claimant’s previous claims history identified that he had made previous personal injury claims in 2012, 2014 and 2015. This was contrary to the information provided to the medical experts that he had not been involved in any other accidents or made any other insurance claims.

Upon disclosure of the previous claims history to Mr Bithell’s solicitors, he addressed these in a witness statement endorsed with a statement of truth. He denied making a personal injury claim or that he had suffered any injuries following the 2014 claim when he had been a passenger on a bus involved in an accident. This was proven to be demonstrably false by the existence of two medical reports he had obtained in relation to the 2014 accident (for the purpose of compensation), one of which helpfully included an ID photograph. This confirmed beyond any doubt that it was the claimant who had attended the consultations and that he had complained of injuries which included to his back.

The case of Molodi v Cambridge Vibration Maintenance Service [2018] EWHC 1288 is a clear precedent that where a claimant fails to disclose to his medico legal experts’ details of relevant medical history or, in particular, fails to declare his involvement in personal injury claims, this undermines the reliability of the medical evidence as a whole. This goes to the root of the claim and can warrant a finding of fundamental dishonesty being made.

Following an application on behalf of the AA to amend their defence to plead fundamental dishonesty, Mr Bithell discontinued his claim and his solicitors subsequently ceased acting for him. An application for a finding of fundamental dishonesty was still pursued and despite having the opportunity to provide a witness statement to explain the blatant untruths, the claimant chose not to do so.

The matter came before Deputy District Judge Causton at Stockport County Court on Friday 14th May where the claimant was also in attendance. The judge concluded that, had the original claim proceeded to trial, the claimant’s witness statement, which expressly stated that he had not been injured or made a claim following his accident in 2014, would have actively misled the trial judge. In addition, he applied the decision of Molodi and found that the claimant’s dishonesty went to the heart of the claim as it impacted on the key questions of whether the claimant was injured in the index accident and if so, what injuries he actually suffered.

DDJ Causton made a finding of fundamental dishonesty against the claimant and ordered him to pay the defendant’s costs of over £18,500.

The AA were represented by Martin Brown, associate in the Manchester Casualty Fraud Team. Counsel was Alex Taylor of Deans Court Chambers.

Suzanne Milne, Head of Casualty Fraud, said:

This is another example of how seriously compensators and the courts will seek to address dishonest claimants bringing fraudulent claims. Whether a claimant has been involved in a genuine accident or not, it is not acceptable to lie with the intention of enhancing the compensation which one may seek to recover. This is blatant fraud and claimants need to be aware of the significant ramifications of such a finding against them.

If you need help with investigating the validity of a claim, contact our counter fraud solicitors.

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