Plana v First Capital East Ltd

On 15 August 2013 the judge laid down judgment in the above case which follows in the same vein of the principle laid down in Summers v Fairclough…

Central London County Court (15 August 2013)

On 15 August 2013 his Honour Judge Collender QC laid down judgment in the above case which follows in the same vein of the principle laid down in the case of Summers v Fairclough Holmes [2013] and the well-reported case of Fari v Mr Haringey [2012].

In the index case the defendant sought an Order pursuant to CPR 3.4(2) (b) striking out the claimant’s claim on the basis that there was a clear abuse of process.

Background

The claim arose from an accident that the claimant allegedly sustained at work on 10 October 2007.  The claimant claims that he was moving some signs within his workplace when he was caused to slip "in someway" sustaining a blow to the head.  The claimant wasn’t certain as to the precise mechanism of the accident but “felt sure that he slipped upon a plastic sleeve”.  

The claimant’s claim was supported by medical evidence which outlined the claimant sustained mild traumatic brain injury and consequently blackouts of a certainly troubling disabling symptom. 

By consent (on 15 July 2010) judgement was entered in the claimant’s favour on the basis that the claimant accepted 10% of the blame for the incident. 

Whilst the defendant did not secure its own medical evidence they instructed a firm to carry out surveillance footage that showed the claimant carrying out a whole manner of tasks which the medical experts stated were not possible. This included the claimant driving a vehicle for some significant time/distances, entering supermarkets and working/supervising at a car wash facility.  

The footage was such that HHJ Collender summarised that “a dispassionate viewing of that footage would demonstrate that there is no apparent indication of impairment within the claimant’s normal working activities”.  

Despite this, on 4 February 2013 the claimant served an updated schedule of loss upon the defendant claiming £637,308.  In short summary the schedule indicated that the claimant claims he was virtually housebound owing to frequent blackouts, spells of dizziness and headaches.  Mr Plana claimed that he required constant supervision, was unable to work (to such an extent that he has no residual earning capacity) and was unable to drive. 

The application and ruling

In considering the application the HHJ Collender considered CPR 3.4(2) (b) which states that “the court may strike out a statement of case if it appears to the court… that the statement of case is an abuse of the courts processes or is otherwise likely to obstruct the just disposal of the proceedings.”  

HHJ Collender also made reference to case of Summers, which confirmed that the court has jurisdiction to strike out a case at any stage of the proceedings. Furthermore HHJ Collender outlined that it is common ground that deliberately making a false claim and producing false evidence is an abuse of the courts process, resulting in an unfair Trial (owing to unnecessary expenditure investigated false and/or exaggerated assertions). 

Ultimately HHJ Collender took the view that whilst there was likely to have been a genuine incident that this was a fraudulent claim (with the genuine element of the claim representing a mere fraction of the presented claim value) which has been unmasked by the surveillance evidence obtained by the defendants. 

The claim was therefore dismissed. 

Wider application of this case in a fraud context

In summary the case further strengthens insurers’ ability to defend potentially exaggerated claims even in instances where there is a genuine aspect to the claim. 

This stance is certainly reassuring and Weightmans LLP’s dedicated casualty fraud team continue to successfully defend such cases with support of the vast amounts of supporting legislation. 

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