The claimant, Ian Clark, alleged that on 24 April 2014 as he was cycling home from work along the cycle path on Ashton Road his front wheel went into a pothole in the carriageway, causing him to lose his balance and fall off his bike. He alleged to have sustained a spinal fracture, left wrist fracture and a soft tissue injury to his neck as a result of the accident. There was also a suggestion that he suffered psychological symptoms following the incident. The claimant claimed damages exceeding £25,000.
Investigations identified Facebook entries which had provided a competing version of events. On 1 May 2014 there had been a Facebook exchange in which the claimant was asked how he had managed to fall off his bike, to which he replied “seat snapped”. Thereafter a friend of the claimant’s wrote “Say you hit a pot hole & claim off the council my old m8 did it about 10 years ago but he only did his wrist in like you & he got £28,000”. The claimant’s Claims Notification Form (‘CNF’) indicated that he entered into a Conditional Fee Agreement on 6 May 2014, some five days later. Within that CNF the claimant identified a highway defect as the cause of his fall.
Proceedings were issued and the Defence served made reference to the Facebook entries which had provided a competing version of events. The Defence also made reference to a previous claim brought by the claimant against the Council for another alleged accident on the highway nine months earlier.
The claimant had previously pursued a claim against the Council in relation to an alleged tripping accident that occurred on the highway on 18 July 2013, some nine months prior to the present claim. He claimed for damages which at Trial were agreed, subject to liability, at £3,000. The claimant’s costs would likely have been something in the region of £14,000.
This claim proceeded to Trial whereupon the Judge concluded that he found the mechanics of the accident to be troubling. He found it difficult to accept that on the balance of probabilities the accident occurred as a result of the defect contended for. He went on to say that, in general, he did not believe the Claimant’s evidence. Thus the claim failed and the claimant was ordered to pay the Council’s costs in the sum of £6,035.
Finding of Fundamental Dishonesty
Following service of the Defence and disclosure of the Facebook entries in the present matter, the claimant discontinued his claim.
Qualified One-Way Costs Shifting (QOCS) applied and therefore the Council were not entitled to recover their costs.
In light of the evidence that had been collated via social media, and the concerns regarding the previous claim that had been brought against the Council by the claimant, an application was issued by BLM with the assistance of Lucy Powis of Kings Chambers to disapply QOCS on the grounds that the claimant’s claim had been fundamentally dishonest. The application requested that the Council’s costs be paid by the claimant.
At the hearing on 23 February 2018 the court accepted that the claimant’s claim had been fundamentally dishonest. In his judgment, Deputy District Judge Ayres commented “I am wholly satisfied that this claim was fundamentally dishonest and that when making the claim the claimant knew exactly what the true circumstances were but misrepresented them and sought to blame the defendant fully knowing that the defendant was not to blame and in the light of that I am wholly satisfied that the defendant should be entitled to recover its costs.”
Accordingly, by order of DDJ Ayres, QOCS was disapplied and the claimant was ordered to pay the defendant’s costs in the sum of £11,567.10. The court also ordered that a copy of the Judgment should be provided to the Police and Crown Prosecution Service in order that consideration may be given to the institution of criminal proceedings.
The Council are in the process of seeking to enforce the Court Order against the claimant.
The counter fraud investigation team works to prevent, detect and investigate all types of Fraud offences committed against Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.
If you know or suspect someone is making a fraudulent insurance claim against Stockport Council please contact Stockport MBC's Insurance department on tel: 0161 474 4031 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your concerns will be dealt with in the strictest of confidence.