The High Court has thrown out a personal injury claim – without letting the case go to full quantum trial – after the litigant presented an ‘egregiously untrue picture’ of his disabilities.
The claimant in Patel v Arriva Midlands Ltd had brought a damages claim after being in collision with a bus in January 2013, following which he suffered a heart attack and his condition then apparently deteriorated to the point where he was significantly disabled.
The court found in favour of the claimant on primary liability, with a finding of 40% contributory negligence, but the defendant’s insurers applied to dismiss the claim before it went to quantum on the grounds it was fundamentally dishonest.
The court heard that experts instructed to assess Patel’s condition found him in bed, mute, almost entirely unresponsive and unable to move his hands, arms or legs. The two consultants could find no neurological reason for the claimant’s condition and agreed he was either feigning his disability or had a subconscious conversion disorder.
But unbeknownst to the claimants, his family and the experts, the defendants secretly recorded Patel over several days, with the footage showing him walking unaided, talking and seeming to be engaged in what was happening. One expert’s revised opinion was now that Patel’s disability was feigned, and that his son, acting as a litigation friend, had been ‘frankly deceitful’.
Sitting in the High Court, Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke accepted the claimant’s disability was feigned. Even if, as was claimed, Patel’s condition changed from day-to-day, this should still have allowed him to correct the untrue information in expert reports.
The claimant submitted it was impossible for the court to find fundamental dishonesty without hearing all the evidence. The court was asked instead to wait until all matters were ‘tested and ventilated’, and findings made, at a quantum trial.
But the judge accepted the expert’s post-surveillance opinion that the original diagnosis was not tenable, and Patel’s disability was feigned.
The judge added: ‘The claimant’s dishonesty has substantially affected the presentation of his case which potentially adversely affected the defendant in a significant way, and so the claimant has been fundamentally dishonest.’