Case News (MITSUI SUMITOMO UNDERWRITING AT LLOYDS LTD v KHAN & ORS (2014))

17 February 2014

It was appropriate to commit the victim of a road traffic accident and his litigation friend to prison for nine months following an exaggerated and fraudulent claim for damages. The victim's wife who had played a lesser role in the claim, was given a seven-month sentence suspended for two years.

The applicant applied for committal of the respondents (K, W and X) for an attempted fraud.

In 2008, K had sustained head injuries following a road traffic accident in which a lorry had knocked him off of his bicycle. K made a full recovery from his injuries and was therefore entitled to modest damages. However, with the help of his wife (W) and another (X), who subsequently acted as his litigation friend, K tried to take advantage of the situation for financial gain. He concocted an elaborate fraud exaggerating the effect of his injuries, which resulted in four doctors' reports concluding that he had permanently impaired cognitive function. K asserted in his particulars of claim that he needed 24-hour professional care and that he required certain equipment as result of his injuries and that his house required modification. On the same date that K issued his claim, M offered to settle the matter for £75,000; K refused. In a preliminary schedule of loss K claimed over £1 million. W and X made false oral statements to K's solicitors asserting that they had given K constant care since the accident. M hired private detectives to observe K and discovered that by October 2010 he was functioning normally and was capable of full-time work. The surveillance footage was disclosed and the fraud later admitted. M made a renewed offer to settle which was eventually accepted. K, W and X were all of previous good character and had accepted their guilt at an early stage. X was aged 61 and W was 29.

HELD: (1) The respondents' actions had undermined the system of compensating accident victims which caused loss to the insurance companies behind the defendant sued and to those who advise those bringing such claims and drove up insurance rates. It also imposed on those liable the burden of separating out the justifiable from the unjustifiable claims. While a legitimate exercise, for those who made genuine claims that practice could often be upsetting and obtrusive. Further, the respondents' behaviour struck at the principle of law that made the initial assumption that one who asserts something is assumed to be telling the truth. (2) K, W and X were all co-conspirators and therefore the starting point had to be that they had all played an equal role. Prior to the accident, K had been a hard-working member of society. It was also necessary to take into account the three years and three months that had passed since the deception, the serious injuries that K had sustained and that he would not now receive the damages that he was legitimately entitled to, and his acceptance of guilt at an early stage. Accordingly, he was sentenced to an immediate term of nine months' imprisonment. (3) X had been a leading player in the fraud and therefore there was no need to distinguish him from K; X had been K's litigation friend. Accordingly, X was also sentenced to an immediate term of nine months' imprisonment. (4) W, who was 29, was also of good character and had accepted her guilt at an early stage. W had not played a prime role in the conspiracy; she had played a lesser part in that she had given a written statement supporting K's evidence. W had a 15-month-old daughter and accordingly was sentenced to seven months' imprisonment suspended for two years.

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