Regular readers of this blog will have come across several posts dealing with allegations of fraud or exaggeration. Indeed, allegedly fraudulent accidents appear to be occupying an ever increasing proportion of the court’s time. The recent decision of Spencer J in Homes for Haringey v Barbara Fari and Piper Fari therefore serves as a stark and welcome warning to any budding fraudsters.
Mrs Fari brought a claim for personal injury after tripping outside her home, seeking compensation of £750,000. According to her witness statement, Mrs Fari was left with severe pain and significantly limited mobility, such that everyday tasks were difficult for her to perform. Her schedule of loss included a substantial claim for care from her husband, which would allegedly be required for the rest of her life. Mrs Fari had provided such an account of her disabilities to her medical experts, and Mr Fari also produced a witness statement in support of his wife’s claim.
Unfortunately for Mrs Fari, Homes for Haringey arranged for video surveillance. The results painted a very different picture. Mrs Fari was filmed going about her daily activities without any real difficulty, and it was apparent that she did not require any such care and assistance from her husband. In light of the surveillance evidence, Mrs Fari’s claim was struck out in October 2012 on the basis of her “gross exaggeration”.
Homes for Haringey subsequently brought committal proceedings against Mr and Mrs Fari. Mrs Fari argued that she could not read or write, that she had signed her witness statement and schedule of loss without understanding their content, and that her medical experts had misunderstood her. Mr Fari claimed that he signed his witness statement without reading it. Unsurprisingly, these arguments held little sway with the court. It was held that those documents must have prepared on the basis of instructions, and Mr and Mrs Fari were in contempt of court for their serious and deliberately false representations.
Passing sentence last week, Spencer J held that those who made false claims had to expect to go to prison. Mrs Fari had argued that the Article 8 rights of her dependant children would be affected should she be sentenced to imprisonment. Those submissions were rejected, and Mrs Fari was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment. Mr Fari was sentenced to suspended sentence of two months’ imprisonment for his role in the claim.
This will undoubtedly be welcomed by insurers, and clearly demonstrates that the courts will protect the public interest and adopt a robust stance against those bringing such exaggerated claims.