The now-defunct Asons Solicitors has been ordered to meet the costs of insurance company LV=, after a court found that the law firm made ‘gross’ and ‘deeply disturbing’ failures in a personal injury case it was handling.
The Bolton-based firm was found to have handled a claim without verifying whether the claimant was genuinely providing instructions, and to have backdated correspondence to disguise non-compliance with court timetabling.
In the County Court at Nottingham today, His Honour Nigel Godsmark ordered Asons and a local claims management company to pay LV=’s costs, in the region of £40,000.
The action arose out of a £3,000 whiplash claim made by Nitin Trehan after an accident in Nottingham in July 2012. After Trehan took his vehicle in for repairs, he contacted Adeel Karim, an individual who had assisted him in relation to an earlier accident.
Karim then passed on details of the accident to his brother Haroon Karim, a director at Nottingham-based Accident Claims Assistant Ltd. Haroon Karim sold the claim to Asons Solicitors, who subsequently submitted a claim to LV=.
The matter went to trial on 19 September 2014 but the claim was dismissed after Trehan failed to attend court. He was ordered to pay LV=’s costs of £7,744.48.
But when LV= sought to enforce the order against Trehan, he claimed to know nothing about the claim brought in his name. He then launched proceedings to have the costs order set aside and for Asons to be held responsible.
In response, Asons argued it had had very limited contact with the claimant and that liability lay with Karim.
The court said an examination of documents, including a claim form, particulars of claim and an authority to release medical records, showed there was strong evidence Trehan’s signatures had been forged by Karim.
Although Judge Godsmark found Asons had been deceived by Karim he condemned the firm for its ‘gross failure’ to carry out basic identity checks on a client.
During the trial Godsmark found inconsistencies in Asons’ file and expressed ‘grave reservations’ as to whether the dates on file-copy letters could be relied upon.
Further, the judge found;
- No evidence of any correspondence between Asons and Trehan;
- No signed funding agreement; and
- No evidence that Asons had taken any steps to confirm the identity of its client.
In his ruling, Godsmark said: ‘That a solicitors practice can purport to act for a client they have never met or had direct contact with is startling. That those solicitors feel able to commence litigation on behalf of an individual they have never met or had direct contact with, without any funding arrangement in place, is frankly appalling.
‘When I add to that the manner in which the litigation was pursued with falsification of the dates of letters (also to deceive) the picture is deeply disturbing.’
Asons, which was the subject of a row over a £300,000 cash grant from the local authority in Bolton, was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority earlier this year.
Karim has been contacted for comment.
LV= was represented by UK firm Horwich Farrelly.