Pain and Suffering Dishonesty is Penalised

Martine Woodlike v BAA: Court of Appeal 23rd November 2009

The claimant, Martine Woodlike, was employed as a security guard at Stansted Airport. On 12th July 2004, while on foot patrol in the baggage reclaim area, she fell down a staircase after losing her footing on a loose stair rider, sustaining injury.

The issue related to the contention that she continued to suffer lower back pain. The defendant accepted the claimant suffered an aggravation for about 12 months of pain in her lower back prior to the accident, but Ms Woodlike claimed that the injury had brought forward the pain by 5 years due to the fall.

The claimant initially valued her claim at 160k, which was reduced to 35k three weeks before trial. The defendant had made a Part 36 offer of 4,500 on 5th August 2008 and, at trial, the judge awarded the claimant 5,523.38, plus interest agreed at 355.33.

The judge took into account that Ms Woodlike set out to mislead her own medical experts by withholding previous medical history and she attempted to manipulate the civil justice system. He ordered the claimant to repay the defendants costs, including wasted costs for considering reports of expert and for defending a case to trial which had a limited value of 5,000 as opposed to the sums claimed.

The Court of Appeal found pursuing in an exaggerated way resulted in this becoming a heavily contested litigation and although the defendant made an inadequate Part 36 offer, it was held that the claimants dishonesty must be penalised. The claimants failure to negotiate was also identified as contributing to costs.

The Appeal was allowed and it was held that there be no order for costs.

The message from the Court of Appeal is that dishonesty or exaggerated claims can give rise to adjustments to costs, penalising the claimant even when the exaggeration is known to the defendant who could have made an appropriate protective Part 36 offer.