BLM secures fundamental dishonesty finding against fraudster exaggerating food poisoning

01 Aug 2019

BLM has been successful in finding an exaggerated holiday illness claim was fundamentally dishonest.

The claimant Katie Miles, a police offer serving the Nottinghamshire force, stated she was confined to her hotel room and required repeated toilet trips every 10-15 minutes after developing food poisoning at the Royal Holiday resort in Sharm el Sheik where she holidayed in 2015. Miles sought compensation from travel firm Thomas Cook.

During the course of litigation, Miles was requested to disclose her holiday photographs and videos and this evidence was found to include photos of her enjoying a desert quad-biking excursion, a video of her on a camel ride and pictures of her on a boat trip – contradicting her account of the extent of her suffering.

After her credibility was challenged Miles attempted to explain these activities on the basis that she had paid for them and didn’t want to let her family down. She said there were toilet opportunities on the desert excursion and on the boat trip she spent her time on the toilet and lower deck.

At trial, the courts heard that despite Miles claiming that she had never been so ill in her entire life and that her illness continued for two to three months, she did not visit a doctor at the hotel, or contact her GP once she had returned to the UK.

His Honour Judge Owen found that "the probability is that if the claimant had developed such severe and persistent symptoms described to the medico legal expert, it is highly unlikely she would have ventured onto the desert excursion that evening, let alone mount a camel and be bounced through the desert” and "that is implausible and in present purposes unlikely. The same is true in relation to the all-day boat trip.” If she had been as ill as she described, she would have had to have requested medical advice or treatment. When viewed objectively, there was no factual basis to support the assertions within her witness statement.

Representing Thomas Cook, BLM partner Arion Jones said: “The package holiday market has long been targeted by dishonest claims and BLM has worked closely with the travel industry to curb this activity. However, concerns remain that a large proportion of claimants who may have been genuinely ill have exaggerated their claims or distorted their history of activities on holiday either to increase their potential compensation or to support their case on causation. This is on the same level as a wholly fake / bogus claim in terms of fraud. This judgment is a great example of the approach the courts are taking for claimants embellishing their symptoms and will be of assistance when dealing with future claims that have been exaggerated dishonestly.

Stuart Smith from BLM’s fraud hub commented: “It is of paramount importance that claimants honestly present their claims to the court otherwise there can be significant repercussions. Our team supports a zero tolerance approach to dishonest claims and this judgment serves as a stark reminder that the risk is not worth it.

Miles’ claim was found fundamentally dishonest and ordered her to pay Thomas Cook’s legal costs of £2,776.

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Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to customers of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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