The High Court has overturned personal injury awards from the same judge in two cases where claimants’ evidence was deemed to be ‘inconsistent, unreliable and on occasions simply untruthful’.
Mr Justice Martin Spencer said the £2,500 general damages awarded to two claimants in Richards & Anor v Morris was based on a ‘much too benevolent’ approach to evidence which could not be trusted.
The judge used identical words of criticism in Molodi v Cambridge Vibration Maintenance Service & Anor, where the claimant was found to have given a ‘clear lie’ to his doctor when asked how many accidents he had been involved in. In both Richards and Molodi the judge at first instance was His Honour Judge Main QC.
The High Court rulings make important points about the application of fundamental dishonesty rules and the importance placed on claims notification forms (CNFs) when considering compensation payments.
The judge allowed the defendant’s appeal in Richards and dismissed the claims, but without a finding of dishonesty as he did not have the opportunity to assess the claimants as witnesses.
He also disassociated himself from comments made by HHJ Main QC, who had said claims forms were ‘simplistic documents which do not permit there to be details of clinical presentation’, adding they cannot be relied upon and that ‘I [HHJ Main QC] just ignore them’. Spencer said: ‘On the contrary, in my view [CNFs] are important documents: they provide the basis for possible proceedings for contempt of court, as seen, and they provide valuable information at an early stage.’
The court heard that several issues with the claimants’ evidence were individually and collectively ‘nails in the coffin’ for the claims, which followed a road traffic accident in 2014 in Birkenhead.
In Molodi, Spencer said the RTA claim dating back to 2015 was one of ‘those rare cases’ where he could make out fundamental dishonesty without even seeing the witnesses involved. He identified inconsistencies between the claimant’s witness statement and the evidence, with losses exaggerated and physiotherapy attended more to claim back the money than for genuine medical reasons.
The £4,397 compensation award, which included £1,467 for special damages, was dismissed.
In Richards, Mr Paul Sweeney, instructed by 1 Law Solicitors, appeared for the claimants. Mr Daniel Wood, instructed by DAC Beachcroft Claims Ltd, appeared for the defendant.
In Molodi, Sweeny appeared for the claim, instructed by RKS Solicitors. Wood appeared for the defendant, instructed by DAC Beachcroft LLP.