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Insight

Minor Impacts: The Courts provide guidance to Plaintiff and Defendants

Neil Cahill
11/10/2021

Locations

Ireland

The High Court in the Circuit Court appeals of Scott Hardy and Damien Hennessy v Bridghe Bible and the Motor Insurers Bureau [2021] IEHC614 have recently provided an insight into how the courts should approach alleged exaggeration or false personal injuries claims. 
Facts

These cases arose out of an alleged road traffic accident described as a very minor "tip" between the parties.  The Circuit Court awarded the Plaintiffs €5,000 in respect of personal injuries together with a reduced amount of €1,250 for vehicle damage.  On appeal the High Court went further dismissing both claims. On the basis of the evidence before the court it did not believe there was any damage caused to the vehicle or injuries suffered to the Plaintiff.

Commentary

Mr. Justice Twomey provided some interesting commentary on how a Plaintiff solicitor should approach this type of claim with caution when taking them on and the factors a court will look at when considering whether to award damages in cases of this nature.  This included:
 
  1. "Inappropriate" referral by solicitor of client to consultant
The court provided a commentary on the recent case law but reiterated that the practice of solicitors referring clients to medical specialists is not approved by the courts.  The rational for this approach is that the primary interest should be the medical interest of the client and not the legal outcome.  Therefore, any reports, tests etc. not generated based on medical need should be treated with caution.
 
  1. Self-referrals of plaintiffs to a hospital emergency department
The court found it curious that the Plaintiffs would self-refer (i.e. no referral from their GP) to the emergency department when there was no indication of any medical emergency.  The court commented that a plaintiff who fails to seek medical advice from their GP or an opinion from their GP as to whether their alleged injuries warranted attendance at a busy accident and emergency department, can amount to supporting evidence that the claim was false (or exaggerated).
 
  1. Negative effects of such claims on genuine claims and innocent defendants
The court sympathised with genuine plaintiffs who had their claims delayed by the backlog that false claims may cause.  Furthermore, it acknowledged the financial disincentive for defendants (and insurers) to run alleged false claims all the way to trial where the plaintiff is impecunious and the defendants will still be faced with a large legal bill and no hope of recovery even if successful.

Conclusion

This case provides a timely reminder to plaintiff solicitors as to the court's view on solicitor's referring clients for medical examination.  Furthermore, it shows defendants that where the appropriate evidence is available it is possible to successfully defend these types of claim.  Whilst it can be costly to do so the courts were keen emphasis they will listen to these arguments and extolled the virtues of sending out a message to those thinking of taking false or exaggerated claims.

Written by Neil Cahill

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