Pedalling dishonesty - cyclist's highway claims 'shot to pieces'

Lucking v Cheshire East Council: Crewe County Court 5 November 2018 – DDJ Causton

Executive summary

A cyclist was found to be fundamentally dishonest in relation to both his factual claim and the resultant injuries.

Facts and evidence

The claimant suffered a serious fracture after falling from his bike at 6.45am whilst on his way to work. His case was that he collided with an open manhole in the centre of the carriageway and his account was purportedly supported by his father-in-law who provided evidence that he had found the claimant in the road whilst he was on his way to the same place of work.

The claimant’s factual allegations were disputed by two work colleagues who provided evidence that, in fact, they had found the claimant on the pavement and the claimant’s account at that time was that his bike had slipped from under him as he attempted to mount a dropped kerb. At that stage, the father-in-law had not been present.

The claimant contended that, as a result of the accident, he had given up cycling and had to sell his bike. He complained of a loss of strength in his elbow with continuing pain. However, scrutiny of the claimant’s social media accounts indicated that he had returned to cycling within four months of the accident and had cycled significant distances, including a charity cycle ride to Blackpool. There was also evidence of him completing circuit training at the gym, lifting dead weights, rowing in Barcelona and competing in a Tough Mudder race.  

Decision

In dismissing the claim, the judge described the claimant’s evidence as “unreliable”, “implausible” and “inconsistent”, finding that the claimant’s credibility was “shot to pieces” by the social medial evidence. The manhole was not the cause of the accident and the injury was nothing like as serious as the claimant contended. The judge therefore made findings of fundamental dishonesty both in respect of the facts of the claim itself (pursuant to CPR 44.16) and, had it been necessary, in respect of the claimant himself (under s.57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015) in relation to the alleged damage and loss. Further, in relation to the manhole, the court upheld the council’s inspection defence under s.58 of the Highways Act 1980. The claimant was also ordered to pay the council’s costs, his costs-shifting protection having been lost as a result of the finding of fundamental dishonesty.

Comment

This claim was fraudulent to its core and the court disposed of it accordingly. It is recognised that local authorities face significant fraud challenges. Cheshire East Council, like other authorities, is required to protect the public funds which it administers and it will now seek to recover its legal costs from the claimant.

Councillor Don Stockton, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for environment, said:

“This was a blatant attempt to defraud the council and the borough’s taxpayers with a bogus claim for an accident that was in no way connected with the authority or any defect in the road.

“I agree with our legal representatives, Weightmans LLP, who stated the claim was fraudulent to the core. This case was an example of how local authorities faced significant fraud challenges.

“I would like to pay tribute to the two members of the public whose honesty and evidence in court enabled the council to challenge this cynical claim.

“We, like all local authorities, are required to protect public funds and this sends out the message that we will challenge claims that we feel are fraudulent.”

Suzanne Milne and Lucie Evans of Weightmans LLP acted for Cheshire East Borough Council

For further information please contact:

Suzanne Milne, Partner Suzanne.milne@weightmans.com 0161 233 7348

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