1st February’20 – Our client Mr K suffered an accident at work whilst on site in London in 2014 when loose masonry fell from a window above him injuring his right hand.
He was an Apprentice Carpenter and still only a teenager at the time.
He was taken to hospital and a small avulsion fracture was seen on X-ray of his right dominant hand. During follow up a neuroma was identified adjacent to the EPL tendon. His pain continued and increased over a period of time.
After a month or so treating doctors suspected that Mr K had a regional pain syndrome of some description. Unfortunately, Mr K did not recover from his injuries and was eventually released from his apprenticeship.
He came to see Fairweathers in order to pursue legal remedies.
As always, appropriate medical experts were instructed including a Pain Specialist who diagnosed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome effecting the right hand. In the expert’s view Mr K’s prospects on the open job market were significantly affected and he was disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010.
A Letter of Claim was sent to the Insurers of Mr K’s employers (QBE European Operations) and the Claims Controller Gavin Sellwood admitted liability for the original accident.
Mr K was a young lad who needed to get on with his life after suffering life changing injuries and avoid a protracted claim process.
Unfortunately, from this point onwards, Insurers adopted an obstructive approach to the claim. They instructed solicitors and insisted that Mr K issue Court proceedings. They rejected an early settlement offer and refused to engage in realistic settlement negotiations.
Meanwhile Mr K faced great financial hardship as he was out of work. A request for an interim payment took many months to resolve and Insurers generally dragged their heels.
For example in relation to treatment they refused to fund a Pain Management Programme until their experts had examined Mr K. Having set this pre-condition no arrangements to examine Mr K were made for almost two years.
When the Defendant finally agreed to make an interim payment in the sum of £20,000 Mr K was able to attend a Residential Pain Management Programme in June 2018.
Meanwhile the Defendant were engaging in covert surveillance in order to try to discredit Mr K and the way he put his case. In addition, they trawled through his Social Media in an attempt to attack his credibility.
Our suggestion to jointly instruct a Vocational Rehabilitation Case Manager to help Mr K get back to meaningful employment was refused
The evidence was eventually served a few months before trial and generated a large volume of unnecessary work.
In December 2019, the Defendant finally agreed to a Round Table Settlement Meeting (they had refused mediation). Just prior to the meeting the Defendant served a Counter Schedule alleging for the first time exaggeration and malingering. These were extremely serious allegations, which would have had extremely serious consequences for Mr K if accepted by the Court. Bizarrely the Defendant made these allegations with no support whatsoever even from their own experts!
The settlement negotiations were fruitless and failed. The lawyers knew better than the experts apparently and Mr K was going to be caught out at Trial during cross examination.
The case proceeded to Trial at the beginning of December 2019. The Defendant played their hand and the national media reported the case because of the malingering allegations.
At the end of a six day hearing His Honour Judge Yelton awarded the Claimant substantial damages in the sum of £217,109.81 and was highly critical of the way the case had been defended, commenting:-
“There are grave difficulties in relation to the allegation of malingering properly so called, and having listened carefully to all the evidence I am satisfied that it is not only not made out but it should never have been advanced.”
On the issue of exaggeration he said:
“Nor do I find that the Claimant is consciously exaggerating his complaints”.
The Judge awarded Mr K indemnity costs from the date the Defendant filed their Counter Schedule of Losses.”
In sanctioning the Defendant in this way Judge Yelton said :-
“This was a high risk strategy by the Defendant, building high walls on low foundations”.
Steve Evans the Solicitor with conduct of this case said:-
“The Defendant behaved quite disgracefully from an early stage in this case. Mr K was a vulnerable young man who deserved to be treated far better by Insurers. He had suffered serious injuries through no fault of his own and needed to get on with his life.
Of course every Defendant is entitled to investigate claims and test the evidence. However when these investigations fail, there is no justification to allege an entire case is fraudulent with all the attendant publicity in the national media. The Court rightly came to the decision that this was not true.
The Defendant will now have to pay substantial legal costs and hopefully next time will think twice before rejecting a sensible settlement of a perfectly good and proper claim.
Most important of all, Mr K was entirely vindicated by the Judge. He now has some financial security and can build his future which we wish him all the very best with.”