An injured person who claimed more than £500,000 for lost earnings – while hiding the fact he was still in paid work – has lost his entire damages award because of fundamental dishonesty.
In Woodger v Hallas, Mr Justice Julian Knowles overturned a county court ruling that claimant Steven Woodger should still receive around £49,000 compensation in spite of his dishonesty.
The county court had indicated that Woodger would suffer ‘substantial injustice’ if he missed out on some of the money due to him but the judge said there was no proper or adequate basis for this finding. 'In every case where the court goes on to find fundamental dishonesty ex hypothesi the claimant will stand to lose their genuine damages,’ he said. ‘Parliament has provided in express terms that that should be so, subject to the question of substantial injustice.’
He continued: ‘Substantial injustice must mean something more than the claimant losing their genuine damages,’ he said.
Neither party was able to refer to any case which has defined the meaning of ‘substantial injustice’ and the judge said this was not a surprise, suggesting only that county court judges will generally ‘know it when they see it’.
The claimant had been injured in a road accident in Derby in 2014, with liability admitted by the defendant’s insurers. He suffered lasting hip damage which he claimed affected his work as a mechanic. He claimed general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, as well as for past and future loss of earnings.
The county court found Woodger had been dishonest after he was caught on camera moving relatively freely at work and being paid by at least one employer. The county court judge described potential payments from a second company as ‘cloudy to say the least’ and concluded Woodger had concealed his income.
The appeal judge said that even if there was some injustice to the claimant, the sustained nature of his dishonesty and involvement of others all made his dishonesty so serious that it would have outweighed any injustice to him.
He ruled that the county court should have dismissed the entire claim and awarded the defendant its costs of the action.
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