DWF has successfully obtained a finding of fundamental dishonesty against a claimant who was found to have fabricated the vast majority of a personal injury claim for £850,000 following what was undoubtedly an alarming, but ultimately minor, road traffic accident. The case of Pinkus v Direct Line (2018) was handled by Claire Gribben, Head of Catastrophic Injury & Occupational Health in DWF's Bristol office assisted by Stephanie Hughes, Associate and Adrian Southwood, Senior Associate while Leading Counsel was William Audland QC of 12 Kings Bench Walk. The claimant was represented by Nigel Mills of NewLaw Solicitors and Marcus Grant, Counsel, of Temple Garden Chambers.
In a 78 page judgment, HHJ Coe QC was required to address a substantial number of issues to assess the claimant's claim and determine whether there was fundamental dishonesty at the heart of it.
She found that the claimant's fabrication and exaggeration touched every aspect of the claim: his pre-accident health, the severity of the accident circumstances, the diagnosis following the accident and its impact on his life. He was found to have lied about an attempt to contact a defence witness the day before trial and was even dishonest in relation to peripheral issues such as tax return declarations. His wife was also found to have fabricated and exaggerated her account of the claimant's symptoms.
The inconsistencies in the claimant's account throughout the litigation made it difficult for the medicolegal experts to assess the claimant's problems. The defendant's experts flagged the inconsistencies but indicated it was for the judge to determine issues of credibility whilst acknowledging that they were hard to explain from a clinical point of view. The claimant's experts however were reluctant to acknowledge the inconsistencies, and in some cases attempted to explain them away.
If there were not already enough substantive issues to be considered, the judge also had to contend with: a challenge to the pleading of fundamental dishonesty; an attempt to undermine the credibility of a defence witness; a question mark over the claimant's capacity to litigate; and the actions of one of the claimant's experts who contacted a colleague for an opinion on the case.
After unravelling the claimant's deceit and with significant criticism of the claimant's 'performance', the judge went on to make a finding of fundamental dishonesty and dismiss the claim under s.57 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
We highlight and examine some of the key issues in more detail below.