Injured worker ordered to pay defendant’s legal bill
A judge has decided that a person who fell off a ladder and overstated his injuries was fundamentally dishonest. As a result, the defendant was entitled to claim the full cost of their legal expenses from the alleged injured party.
This County Court decision is likely to influence the interpretation of the Civil Procedure Rules and the newly inserted definition of fundamentally dishonest.
The court rules were significantly reformed in April 2013 when the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act was passed. This meant that claimants no longer had to pay the defendant’s legal bills in unsuccessful personal injury cases. However, a notable exception was where the Court felt that the claimant was dishonest.
The circumstances: Mr Gosling fell through the rung of a ladder
When Mr Gosling injured himself on the ladder at work, he brought a claim against both the manufacturer and the supplier of the ladder. His claim included substantial wage losses with Mr Gosling arguing that he could not work as a result of his injuries.
However when the defendants suspected Mr Gosling was not as badly injured as he made out, they carried out covert surveillance, revealing that he had significantly exaggerated his symptoms. When faced with this information, Mr Gosling decided to settle the matter with the ladder manufacturer out of court and drop the case against the supplier.
The supplier applied to have its legal costs reimbursed. The judge felt that although Mr Gosling had been injured, the over-stating of his injuries was fundamentally dishonest and the supplier should be allowed to have their legal costs reimbursed.
Jamie Patton, partner at Birchall Blackburn Law and personal injury specialist, said: “The new rules didn’t offer a definition of the phrase ‘fundamentally dishonest’ and with no guidance from past case law, it was open to the courts to take a fresh look at how it categorised people who exaggerate their claim.
On the one hand it could mean a totally fabricated claim, where the allegedly injured person made up an accident purely to fraudulently gain compensation. However, it was always open to the court to take a far narrower view of this phrase. What happened in this case, is the claimant was judged to have been fundamentally dishonest for merely exaggerating one aspect of his claim. No one disputed that he was actually injured and suffered loss.
The meaning of the term has been applied extremely harshly by the judge at Cambridge Crown Court, sending out a stark message to anybody tempted to exaggerate their injuries to gain extra compensation. From a practitioner’s point of view, extra care needs to be taken entering into settlement negotiations. The differentiation between the legitimate bartering technique of “aiming high to be knocked down” and fraud has become much more of a grey area.”
Incidental dishonesty is not enough
The Judge held that the embellishment must be significant enough to substantially affect the claim. However, the claim as a whole was not the subject of the fundamentally dishonest allegation but one aspect of it. This is quite possibly a much more stringent interpretation of the new rules than Parliament intended.
Our personal injury specialists are well versed in the intricacies of this area of law. We appreciate that being forced to pay the other side’s costs is a serious consideration when embarking on a personal injury claim. However, we will handle your claim sensitively and in the strictest of confidence, advising on all aspects of your case and your chances of success.
Please pick up the phone to our dedicated team of personal injury specialists for a free, no obligation chat on 0800 614 722