Motor bike crash victim keeps compensation after fraud challenge

Noble v Owens (Queens Bench Division 16 March 2011)

Mr Noble suffered significant injuries in a motorcycle accident and successfully pursued a claim for compensation. At a quantum trail, he was awarded almost 3.4m.

Following trial, Mr Noble purchased a substantial property and, shortly thereafter, fell into dispute with this neighbour. On learning of Mr Nobles compensation award, and concerned that his apparent physical ability belied the level of damages, the neighbour called the Insurance Fraud Bureau Cheatline to report the matter.

The Insurer, which originally pair Mr Nobles compensation, undertook surveillance and applied to freeze the damages paid, based on Mr Nobles alleged fraud.

The claim was brought back before the original trial judge on the Insurers application, to determine whether any of the significant part of the damages had been obtained fraudulently and, if so, to set aside the original award and reassess damages.

Through an eight-day trial, significant evidence was heard from various lay and expert medical witnesses. Surveillance evidence pre and post settlement was considered.

The defendant contended that the claimant had a propensity to be dishonest, having lied to the Inland Revenue and that he had filed to purchase aids or adaptations, or engage in treatment as he said we would do at the initial trial, and for which he had been compensated.

The judge concluded that once compensation is in the hands of the claimant, he might decide to forego some or most of the aids and assistance for which he claimed and spend the money on other things. Consequently, it was found that at the time of the quantum trial, the claimant had not dishonestly emphasised the true state of his disability. The Insurers claim was dismissed.

This case illustrates the concern of Insurers at being duped by a disingenuous claimant, particular when faced with evidence, following settlement that contradicts the level of disability present in the initial claim. There is a clear recognition by the Courts that claimants will not be branded liars, simply because they continue to push themselves in achieving recovery, regardless of whether they have purchased the care, aids, equipment and adaptations that were claimed for, and awarded.