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High Court Overturns Finding of Fundamental Dishonesty

Few would quarrel with the principle that, where personal injury claims are tainted by fundamental dishonesty, they should be dismissed in their entirety. As a High Court ruling showed, however, there must always be a fair opportunity to answer such grave allegations, which must also be proved by solid evidence.

A businessman lodged a damages claim against a motorist after sustaining multiple injuries in a road collision. The motorist's insurers admitted liability for the accident and accepted that he had suffered fractured ribs and various soft tissue injuries, but staunchly resisted his claim that he had, as a result of the accident, suffered persistent back pain that greatly reduced his earning capacity.

Following a trial, a judge upheld the insurer's arguments on that issue. He found that, on the basis of his undisputed injuries, the businessman would have been entitled to £14,000 in damages. That sum contrasted with the value of more than £500,000 that he had put on his claim. The judge went on to find that he had been fundamentally dishonest in advancing his case. Citing Section 57(2) of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, he dismissed the claim in its entirety.

Upholding the businessman's appeal against that outcome, the Court found that he had been given no adequate notice or warning that the allegation of fundamental dishonesty was to be made against him. Even if he could only muster a bare denial, the allegation ought to have been put to him fairly and squarely so that he would have a fair opportunity to respond. He received no such opportunity.

There were also substantial errors in the judge's assessment of various factors that were said to indicate fundamental dishonesty. Overall, the Court ruled that his conclusion was plainly wrong and could not stand. The finding of fundamental dishonesty and the judge's consequential orders were set aside.