Dishonest claim by tree surgeon cut down by Clyde & Co
Legal Development 20 December 2021 20 December 2021
Clyde and Co have successfully struck out a claim brought by a tree surgeon against Royal & Sun Alliance, in which he had exaggerated his genuine claim for injury by submitting a significantly inflated loss of earnings claim.
The Claimant had submitted to the experts of both parties that he had been unable to return to his previous employment for a period of three years following the accident. Surveillance evidence obtained during the alleged period of inability to work showed the Claimant continuing to carry out his work at a tree surgeon. Witness evidence was also supplied to this effect, along with receipts that the Claimant had submitted for services rendered.
Given the extent of the evidence against the Claimant, we applied to the Court to strike out the claim at an interlocutory hearing, with reference to section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act. The Court was referred to the decision of Patel v Arriva, in which it was held that as a matter of law, an application under section 57 did not have to wait until the quantification of the claim was to be addressed. This included whether oral expert or lay witness evidence had been heard.
Considering the application, Deputy District Judge Willink held that the Claimant had been fundamentally dishonest in line with the provisions of section 57. The genuine element of his claim was valued, and will be offset against our indemnity costs.
The Claimant was injured in a road accident on February 20th, 2015. He was riding a motorbike along a road when a car driven by the Defendant pulled out from the nearside causing a collision.
Liability was admitted, and the Claimant suffered soft tissue injuries which later necessitated some surgery. When proceedings were commenced, the Claimant served a Schedule of Loss stating that he was unable to return to work following the accident. Amongst other heads of loss, a claim for past loss of earnings in the sum of £53,618.91 was advanced.
Verified witness evidence was served by the Claimant, effectively repeating the above and claiming that his ability to work at pre-accident levels remained curtailed due to ongoing disabilities. The Claimant also stated to medical experts on both sides that he had been unable to return to work for three year a period, ending February 2018.
Evidence of dishonesty
We obtained surveillance evidence contradicting the Claimant’s pleaded and reported contentions. In October and November 2015 he was seen to be working as a tree surgeon without restriction and we were later able to obtain documentary and witness evidence showing that, during the period he claimed to have been unable to work, he had in fact submitted invoices to that one commercial client that were almost equal to his total alleged loss of earnings. He had charged that customer £400 a day for his services.
In June and July 2016, and November 2017, he was seen with a level of function and mobility that was at odds with his claim.
Following disclosure of this evidence, the experts held a joint meeting and agreed that, whilst the Claimant would have been unable to work for a period of approximately 3 months post-accident, the surveillance evidence provided clear and compelling evidence that there was nothing preventing him working normally thereafter.
At this stage, the Claimant served a rather far-fetched statement in reply to the evidence of his dishonesty, claiming he had employed unidentified ‘travellers’ to undertake the work for him and paid all the money over to them. Had this assertion been true, this would still have entitled him to claim the alleged loss.
However, he then served a revised Schedule of Loss which reduced his past loss of earnings claim to just 15% of the previous claim (£8272.73) and abandoned any claim for future loss of earnings. This effectively confirmed he was abandoning his claim for 3 years loss of earnings in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.
At this stage, his legal representatives came off record, but the Claimant continued his claim as a Litigant in Person. To avoid the costs of trial, we made an interim application to strike out the claim.
S.57 CJCA Application hearing
Handing down judgment, DDJ Willink noted that the Claimant was entitled to damages because he was injured. However, the dishonesty of claiming over £53,000 for lost earnings clearly went to the heart of the claim.
The claim was found to be fundamentally dishonest pursuant to Section 57. The Claimant was ordered to repay over £14,000 of interim payments. The ‘genuine’ element of the Claimant’s claim was valued in the sum of £19,831.71 with that figure to be offset against our costs, which will be assessed on the indemnity basis.