‘Dishonesty claims that fail should incur penalties’
By John Hyde » A personal injury lawyer who beat a ‘fundamental dishonesty’ defence to a claim has called for costs penalties for defendants who fail with the tactic. Martin Littler, of Cobden House Chambers in Manchester, represented Carol Ravenscroft, who was awarded £3,500 at Manchester County Court last month after suffering injuries caused by a falling wardrobe at an IKEA store. The defendant sought to have the case thrown out, invoking new laws enacted last April, by saying the claimant was fundamentally dishonest and had injured herself trying to lift the wardrobe. The judge said IKEA had taken a ‘stance of suspicion rather than sympathy’. This is believed to be one of the first cases in which a defendant has failed with a fundamental dishonesty defence. Despite winning the case, Ravenscroft was not awarded indemnity costs or aggravated damages. Littler said his client had considered withdrawing her claim in light of the allegation. Ravenscroft had been ‘incensed’ by the allegation but was also concerned that a finding of fraud would result in her losing her job, Littler said, adding: ‘Surely a defendant who fails to succeed with a defence based on fundamental dishonesty should receive a costs sanction.’ Littler suggested the problem will become more acute if the small claims limit for personal injuries increases to £5,000, as proposed by the government. ‘Parties are expected to operate on a level playing field. In cases where the claimant has no representation, the defendants will be able to “dig up the pitch”,’ he added. Mikhail Kireev, operations manager at IKEA Warrington, said the company regretted that the accident in the store had occurred.
[Courtesy – The Law Society Gazette]