Kennedys were instructed by a local authority to defend a claim brought by the son of a tenant, who had suffered burns following allegedly negligent maintenance works carried out by an agent of the authority.
Our client felt strongly that this was a claim to defend as it appeared highly spurious and it was important to protect the public purse, as well as sending a message that claims like this will not be tolerated.
Fraud concerns and investigations
The agent denied that they had used any corrosive liquids and the date of the accident was inconsistent with our client’s record of the works. Our investigations revealed discrepancies in the claimant’s GP notes in relation to the injuries and suggested another cause. The concern was that the claimant was bringing a fraudulent claim.
We pressed the claimant’s expert to agree that the claimant had presented inconsistent accounts of the accident and he advised that the claimant did not advise him of the facial injury he had sustained in another incident, which called the claimant’s credibility into question.
As the claimant had no means to pay an adverse costs order, a drop hands offer was made but was not accepted. Our client wanted to protect the public purse against opportunistic claims of this nature and instructed us to defend the claim to trial.
At trial, the judge gave an indication to the claimant that he may wish to consider discontinuing his claim based on the evidence in the bundle. The claimant requested a drop hands discontinuance from the defendant and, in view of his lack of means to pay, the client accepted.
The fundamentally honest view
The claimant’s evidence in support of his claim was inconsistent and the defendant’s evidence was clear; the dates did not match up and no corrosive chemicals were used. If a genuine injury occurred it seemed likely, from the contemporaneous report in the claimant’s own medical records, that the claimant was the author of his own misfortune in using the chemicals himself. Our client was keen to ensure that public money was not spent on such a spurious claim and whilst the judge did not have the opportunity to make a finding of dishonesty, due to the claimant’s discontinuance, the outcome sends a clear message that the local authority will not pay spurious or fraudulent claims.
This claim is a clear reminder that maintaining a robust fraud strategy can assist in defeating a claim by casting sufficient doubt to prevent the claimant from discharging the burden of proof for his claim.