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A supplementary review: Fundamental Dishonesty

  • United Kingdom
  • Litigation and dispute management
  • Personal injury claims litigation

15-03-2022

Cojanu v Essex Partnership University NHS Trust [2022] EWHC 197 (QB)

  • Fundamental dishonesty part of a criminal act;
  • Can dishonesty in a criminal action resonate into civil proceedings?;

Background

This was a claim for damages following an allegation of clinical negligence. The defendant NHS Trust was allegedly negligent in the treatment of the injuries to the claimant’s hand.

The Claimant was dishonest about the cause of his injury. The claimant, when attempting to murder his wife, had cut his own fingers with a knife. He had, however, based his personal injury claim on the allegation that his wife had caused his injury. As a result the claimant was accused of fundamental dishonesty by the defendant, due to his dishonest explanation of how he sustained the injuries.

Finding

The fundamental dishonesty pleading was initially successful.

However, on appeal the High Court overturned the finding of fundamental dishonesty. The fact that a claimant had lied about the original cause of his injuries did not impact upon the claim for clinical negligence arising from those injuries; there had been no fundamental dishonesty in the claimant’s claim for damages; the Judge  saying “the mechanism by which the Claimant received his cut was irrelevant to success in the clinical negligence claim… It matters not whether he had suffered the injury opening a tin of beans, in gang warfare or whilst attempting to murder his wife”.  

The question was whether the claimant’s dishonesty in his criminal trial went to the heart of his civil claim.

It was found that whilst the claimant was dishonest at his criminal trial, that dishonesty did not remove his right to sue in a civil matter.

In terms of quantum, whilst the credibility of the claimant caused the defendant to be much more wary of the assertion of his losses and expenses claim, it was found that the claimant’s dishonesty was neither fundamental to liability or quantum of the civil claim.

Conclusion

Whilst casting doubt over a claimant’s credibility is clearly a step in the right direction in establishing fundamental dishonesty, even if a claimant is proved to be dishonest, particularly if they are a convicted criminal, it is important defendants remain vigilant in looking at the facts of the case and ensuring the allegations of dishonesty truly go to the heart of the civil proceedings, on liability and/or quantum. In this case the claimant was clearly a dishonest criminal but neither the dishonesty or criminality went to the issue of the allegations of medical negligence.

For further advice or guidance on cases with suspected dishonesty or exaggeration, please contact our corporate claims team.

Full details of the case can be found in the full Judgment; Link.