Taylor v Metcalfe Farming Limited
Cope v WM Radford Transport Limited
Allianz Insurance Plc
In trials heard at the County Courts in Wakefield and Mansfield respectively, the judges indicated that false representations in respect of limitation and exposure to noise were 'fundamental' to the claims.
The Claimants were ordered to pay the Defendants' legal fees in excess of £30,000.
Mr Taylor and Mr Cope both brought claims for noise-induced hearing loss, claiming that they had been exposed to excessive levels of noise in the workplace and had thereby sustained damage to their hearing.
Mr Taylor alleged that he was exposed to noise while working as a farmer between 1976 and 1992. He started the index claim in 2020 and denied in response to questions put by the Defendant that he had any knowledge of his hearing loss until he engaged his contemporaneous solicitors.
Documents obtained by Allianz and DWF showed that the Claimant had previously engaged solicitors in 2015 in order to bring a claim. His previous solicitors had carried out a hearing test, had obtained various records and sent a Letter of Claim to the Defendant.
The trial was heard by DDJ Rafferty on 26 September 2023. The Claimant's witness statement denied any wrongdoing, and the Claimant's case was that he had simply forgotten about the prior claim. Under cross-examination, the Claimant conceded that his witness statement was wrong, and that he was fully aware of the prior claim in 2015.
DDJ Rafferty commented in their judgment that:
In my view, the dishonesty was plainly fundamental to this claim. Limitation is vital to establishing a valid claim against the first defendant and appears in the vast majority of noise induced hearing loss claims. … It is therefore a fundamental part of the claimant’s claim that the claim is within the limitation period.
Mr. Cope brought a claim alleging exposure to excessive levels of noise while employed as a driver and mechanic for the Defendant between 2001 and 2016. He claimed that he had been exposed to excessive noise from tools he operated throughout his shift for the years in which he worked as a mechanic. He claimed these constituted the majority of his employment, only working between 2-4 years as a driver.
Under cross-examination, the Claimant admitted he had only worked as a driver for up to 9 years out of the total. In addition, his exposure to tools such as grinders, disc saws and ratchet guns was accepted to have accounted for seconds or minutes of a day, rather than amounting to hours of continuous use.
DJ Carter commented in their judgment on 12 October 2023 that:
I am therefore satisfied the evidence that he gave, judging it on an objective standard, that is as judged by the standards of ordinary people, was dishonest. His dishonesty went to the root of the claim because it was dishonesty about his level of exposure to noise and that was the key element for the purposes of his claim.
It was prejudicial to the defendant because the claimant’s case on paper was that there was far more noise exposure than factually the claimant suggested in his oral evidence. For all of those reasons I am driven to the conclusion that the claim was fundamentally dishonest.
The judges accordingly disapplied QOCS so that the Defendants will be entitled to enforce its costs. The claims will now be passed to DWF's dedicated recovery team to pursue those costs from the Claimant.
James Burge, head of counter fraud at Allianz Commercial, commented: “Both cases show the lengths that claimants will go to, to fraudulently obtain damages, and why we continue to pursue these types of claims through the courts and ensure that those who falsify claims are fully investigated and held accountable”
Jonathan Head, Director with DWF, said: "We are experiencing an increase in disease claims that are dishonestly presented. These judgments show there is zero-tolerance for Claimants who try to obtain damages through deception."
Mr. Singh and Mr. Cooper of Deans Court chambers represented the Defendants at trial. Copies of the judgments are available on request.