Iddon v Warner: a finding of fundamental dishonesty in a clinical negligence case
Written by Anna Datta.
This High Court case is a cautionary tale for Claimants who exaggerate their claim...
The Claimant brought a claim for damages against her General Practitioner for a missed diagnosis of breast cancer. As a result of the negligence, the Claimant had to undergo a mastectomy and axillary dissection, which would otherwise have been unnecessary. The Claimant argued that these treatments had left her with incapacitating chronic pain. The Defendant admitted breach of duty and causation, but contended that her claim should be dismissed because she had been fundamentally dishonest in relation to the claim.
In the course of proceedings, the Claimant served two witness statements and three further statements from supporting witnesses. The two themes that ran through these statements was firstly, the Claimant was significantly disabled, such as to require extensive care for the rest of her life and secondly, that she had been a keen sportswoman prior to her treatment but could now no longer undertake the running and swimming she used to. The Claimant’s case with regard to her significant disability was also reported to a number of medical experts.
The Defendant filed a witness statement from an intelligence analysist, who had completed internet searches and surveillance which had revealed that the Claimant had participated in a number of sporting events, ranging from open water swimming events and 10km running races. This was clearly in glaring contrast to the picture portrayed by the Claimant in her evidence.
Having been caught out, the Claimant admitted in her second witness statement that her first witness statement had contained a number of untruths and that she had recruited her husband and friend in supporting her dishonest account. Furthermore, by her notice to admit facts, the Claimant accepted that she had participated in a number of sporting events. Even then, it was later found that the Claimant had omitted in her evidence a 10km run that she had taken part in. In the Judge’s opinion, this was significant as the purpose of the second statement was to be ‘completely open about her case’. As a consequence, the Judge found that she had deliberately omitted the run in order to conceal the event from the Court’s attention.
The Judge concluded that the Claimant had not suffered chronic pain and that she had trained for and performed in various sporting events between 2017 and 2018. In his opinion, she had deliberately taken steps to mislead the Defendant and the Court about the extent of her injuries so as to inflate the value of her claim from approximately £70,000 to over £900,000. Indeed, the Judge found:
‘It has pervaded her case to the extent that Mrs Iddon has scarcely taken any step in the action that was not tainted by dishonesty’ and it was fair to characterise the Claimant’s conduct as ‘inciting, and then participating in, a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice’.
As a consequence, the Claimant was found to fundamentally dishonest, and the claim was dismissed. The Claimant had been in receipt of a substantial interim payment which she may have to repay.
It is clear from the facts of this case that the Claimant’s dishonesty went far beyond a slight exaggeration or a minor inaccuracy. It was significant in this case that the Claimant has deliberately provided misleading information, even when faced with the Defendant’s evidence and had included others in the dishonest presentation of the claim. On the strength of the Defendant’s evidence and the lack of any cogent explanation from the Claimant, it seems that Judge had little choice but to find that the Claimant had be fundamentally dishonest.
This case is a cautionary reminder to those that represent Claimants, of testing the Claimant’s evidence and the importance of reminding a Claimant of:
- The meaning and implications of a statement of truth on any document; and
- The impact of exaggerating any element of the claim, regardless of whether there has been an admission of breach of duty and causation.
It is not clear from the judgment what prompted the Defendant’s investigations, but no doubt a claim that dramatically increased in value was a warning sign. The fact that this case appeared to be so clear cut is a testament to the strength of the Defendant’s evidence that forensically unpicked the Claimant’s evidence. It is therefore an example as to the cogency of the Defendant’s investigations which are required in order to run a case of this value to trial with the aim of a finding of fundamental dishonesty.
The Judge made clear in his judgment that he was only considering the Claimant’s actions. The Claimant’s dishonesty had been supported by two further witnesses and it remains to be seen what consequences will follow, in any, of their actions.
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