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Fundamental Dishonesty, Conspiracy and Multiple Passenger Claims - Vaughan Jacob, Lamb Chambers

19/08/18. Matthew Boon and 18 others v (1) Dale Pritchard (2) Nigel Mordescai (Liverpool CC, HHJ Gregory, 14 February 2018)

On 11 July 2015 a minor road traffic accident occurred on a roundabout between a van driven by the first defendant and a coach driven by the second defendant. The second defendant’s coach that day carried 25 passengers on a stag do. After the drivers had stopped and exchanged details the stag party continued on to a day at the Chester Races and then afterwards to a nightclub in Wigan. Within a few weeks of the accident 20 of the 25 passengers claimed they had suffered soft tissue whiplash type injuries and claimed damages for personal injury. Of the 20 claims, 19 were presented through the same set of solicitors.

The insurers of both Defendants faced a difficult decision whether to settle or fight the personal injury claims. Certainly the accident circumstances were suspicious. The description of the accident by both drivers and an expert engineering report suggested the collision was no more than a light glancing blow. Indeed the drivers themselves barely noticed the impact and suffered no injury. However each Claimant relied on the corroborative accounts of his peers as well as supporting evidence from a medico-legal expert, GP notes, physiotherapy invoices and statements from family members confirming whiplash symptoms. Further, even if the insurers fought the 20 claims and succeeded they would likely be unable to recover their legal costs of the successful defence owing to the qualified one-way costs shifting provisions found under CPR 44.14. Only a finding that the claims were fundamentally dishonest pursuant to CPR 44.16(1) would allow the insurers to recover their legal costs of defending the claims and make the defence commercially viable.

The Defendants called the Claimants’ bluff. At a 6-day trial in Liverpool County Court all Claimants were subjected to cross-examination alleging that the collision was so minor it could not have caused personal injury. In addition the Defendants’...

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