Contempt of court finding for fraudulent claimant

14 Dec 2012

Today's High Court judgment finds spurious claimant guilty of fraud as video surveillance was "wholly inconsistent with the defendant's description of his condition"

Berrymans Lace Mawer LLP (BLM) has successfully advised QBE Insurance and its insured, Airbus, in a contempt of court case following a personal injury claim. The claimant, Adam Roberts, was today sentenced to six months in prison.

Adam Roberts was an aircraft technician, employed by Airbus. He claimed that an accident at work, in which he slipped on debris, had left him badly disabled. He went on to claim damages for loss of earnings, care and support, equipment, adaptations to property, medication, and treatment.

Working with the company's insurer, QBE Insurance, BLM obtained surveillance evidence showing Mr Roberts carrying out 'arduous' activities, such as clearing out a house and carrying baths. He had originally claimed that he could only walk short distances and used crutches due to the pain across his lower back which radiated down his leg.

In the judgment handed down today, Lord Justice Moore-Bick said: "On the evidence of the video recording, …. it is clear to us that in July 2011 the defendant was not significantly disabled and his condition was not as he described it in his witness statement. Since that statement was produced specifically for the purposes of supporting his claim, there can be no doubt that it was intended to persuade the court to find that he was seriously and permanently disabled and to award him damages to which he was not properly entitled."

Had Mr Roberts succeeded in his claim, Airbus and its insurers faced a potential liability of over £500,000.

David Evans, partner at BLM, represented Airbus and QBE Insurance in this case. He said: "The courts are sending out the right message to those who believe insurance fraud can be committed without rebuke.  The type of activity Mr Roberts engaged in was highly physical, and was wholly incompatible with the assertions of pain and disability he made in his claim, changing it from a straightforward employers' liability claim to a fraudulent matter.

"It is important that those considering committing insurance fraud are aware of the very serious consequences which will be visited upon them. Cases such as this, and the recent rulings in Summers v Fairclough Homes Ltd and Fari v Homes for Haringey, send out a warning to would-be perpetrators.  The insurance industry is sophisticated in its approach to tackling claims, it will not tolerate fraud, and if there is evidence of fraud, we will find it and the courts will punish it."

BLM acted in the high profile case of Summers v Fairclough Homes Ltd this year, during which the Supreme Court ruled that courts have the power to strike out an entire claim, including the genuine part.  Whilst they declined to exercise that power in this case, the appeal successfully overturned two Court of Appeal decisions and the case sets a precedent for the future handling of litigation in substantially fraudulent claims.

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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 clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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