The Court of Appeal has confirmed that judges can make findings of fundamental dishonesty, even when such a plea has not been specifically put forward by a defendant.
In the first case to consider the meaning of fundamental dishonesty following the reforms of Lord Justice Jackson, a legal team from Weightmans has successfully represented Ageas in the Court of Appeal, following a claim made for a traffic accident on 27 March 2013.
Lorna and her son Justin Howlett brought a claim for damages, but Ageas, as the insurer of the first defendant, had concerns as to the validity of the claims and worked with Weightmans to investigate the suspected fraud.
Deputy district Judge Taylor, sitting in the County Court at Portsmouth, held that the claim was fundamentally dishonest and so granted Ageas permission to enforce a costs order against the claimants. The Howletts appealed the decision, but it was dismissed by His Honour Judge Blair QC, sitting in the County Court at Swindon.
At the Court of Appeal that Howletts argued that in the absence of a defence which specifically pleaded a positive case of dishonesty, the trial judge could not find them to have been dishonest.
Yesterday, however, Lord Justice Newey ruled that the interpretation of fundamental dishonesty as previously provided by Judge Moloney QC in the case of Gosling v Hailo was common sense, and that an insurer did not need to specifically allege fundamental dishonesty for a trial judge to make such a finding.
James Langdown, counter fraud manager of Ageas said: “Dishonest claimants already affect society at large by causing increased premiums for motor insurance. Ageas will continue to lead the fight against dishonest claimants.”
Iain Davison, a partner at Weightmans added: “We are delighted to secure the outcome for our client, and for other insurers in future cases. The case will hopefully end any speculation as to what is required of an insurer when defending claims which are potentially dishonest.”
Tom Vonberg from Parklane Plowden was instructed by Weightmans in the Court of Appeal.