A personal injury claim has been struck out by a court, following an investigation by Allianz and BLM, which found that false witness evidence had been disclosed by a claimant solicitors.
The claimant, Mrs Higgins, was said to have sustained minor burns when using a sunbed at an Allianz customer’s beauty salon.However, the defendant had no record of Mrs Higgins’ treatment card, neither was her name on the list of those who had received any such treatments.
Liability was disputed in full and the Allianz fraud investigation team joined forces with insurance and risk law specialist BLM in the ensuing litigation to challenge the inconsistencies in the Claimant’s evidence.
On exchanging witness evidence, BLM had cause to question whether the signature on the Claimant’s witness statement was genuine. At Allianz’s request, the Claimant’s witness statement was sent for detailed forensic analysis which concluded that the signature was indeed a photocopy of the Claimant’s signature lifted from an earlier court document.
The trial judge stated: “It is crystal clear to me from the evidence of the expert, which is unimpeachable in my view, that these two documents which were sent to the defendant’s solicitor were not, in fact, statements which the claimant herself had signed”.
The Judge also found that the Claimant’s real witness statement had still not been served. Thus, the documents sent to the defendant were not witness statements within the meaning of the Civil Procedure rules.
The court found that the Claimant’s solicitors conduct in this case had been “improper” and the claim was struck out as an abuse of process.
The Judge accepted the argument advanced by BLM that the matter fell within the exceptions to qualified one-way costs shifting and as a result the claimant’s solicitors were ordered to pay all of the defendant’s legal costs in the sum of £27,000.
Mihir Pandya, fraud manager, Allianz Insurance, said: “We work closely with all our clients to ensure effective and proportionate controls are in place to minimise exposure and ensure that honest customers are not subsidising the dishonest. The fact that the rigorous work of the Allianz fraud investigation team on this occasion exposed the improper conduct of a solicitor clearly goes to show that all sides stand to benefit from closer engagement and collaboration between insurers and the legal regulator.”
Raymond Southern, fraud partner at insurance and risk law business, BLM commented: “Day after day we identify and deal with a wide variety of fraudulent matters and this case shows the range and scale of issues that we continue to face. The fact that a claimant solicitor can attract such a scathing comment from the court, regarding improper conduct, is extremely disappointing. We will continue to stand firm in the defence of these cases and pursue appropriate punitive sanctions.”