Marios Christofides v Stephen Panagi (August 2023)
In this article Jake Loomes looks at the recent case of Christofides, in which Charlotte Reynolds acted for the Defendant and his insurer Haven Insurance Company Limited, instructed by Nigel Partridge of Flint Bishop, in a personal injury claim initially pleaded at £2,040,149. The Defendant contended at trial, and HHJ Saunders accepted in a judgment handed down on 1 August 2023, that the Claimant had been fundamentally dishonest in the pursuit of his claim.
The claim arose from a road traffic accident on 17th February 2018. Liability for the accident was admitted and the matter came before HHJ Saunders in June 2023 for an assessment of damages with the Defendant contending that the Claimant had been fundamentally dishonest on the basis of compelling surveillance evidence.
The Claimant represented himself, his previous solicitors having come off the record shortly before trial. The Claimant was the only witness called, his evidence being based on two witness statements and two detailed schedules of loss.
The Claimant’s case centred on substantial injuries to his right forearm, leading to pain, restricted movement, and loss of sensation. He claimed difficulties in performing everyday tasks, such as using cutlery, brushing his teeth, and holding anything other than light objects. Such was claimed to have a significant impact on his ability to work. In that vein, his claim included future loss of earning capacity, future personal care, and future domestic assistance, totalling around £1.75 million.
Surveillance evidence presented by the Defendant flatly contradicted the Claimant’s pleaded case. The footage showed, amongst other things:
- The Claimant plainly engaged in heavy physical work and using his right arm extensively, which he had claimed was severely impaired.
- The Claimant in work clothes including work gloves and steel capped boots.
- The Claimant lifting, amongst other things, heavy concrete posts, wooden panels, and a steel girder on to his right shoulder, supported by his right arm.
- The Claimant manoeuvring a full wheelbarrow into the back of a work van that he had been using and driving.
- On the day of his appointment with the Defendant’s expert, the Claimant was seen changing from work clothes to casual clothes, putting on a blue fixed sling on his right arm and placing a blue disabled badge in the dashboard of his van.
Two of the Defendant’s experts, having reviewed the footage, considered that the Claimant had substantially exaggerated the effects of his injuries and was dishonest in presenting his case. HHJ Saunders made plain that on any interpretation, the claim was pleaded and promoted in his evidence as involving a significant level of disability in relation to the use of his right forearm and in turn a substantial loss of earnings based on his inability to seek work. Against that, he concluded that the surveillance evidence and the experts’ opinions were compelling. The Claimant’s explanations for the discrepancies were deemed entirely unsatisfactory and lacking any credibility. He further held that the application of the splint was just one example of a deliberate attempt to make the effects of the accident appear much worse than they were. HHJ Saunders concluded that the Claimant had exaggerated the effect of his injuries in a significant way.
Based on the evidence and applying Ivey v Genting Casinos  UKSC 67, HHJ Saunders concluded that the Claimant had been fundamentally dishonest in relation to his claim, affecting the presentation of the case in a significant way. Consequently, he dismissed the primary claim entirely in accordance with s.57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (‘CJCA 2015’).
HHJ Saunders, in accordance with s.57(4) CJCA 2015 did record an amount for damages that the Claimant would have received had the claim not been dismissed. It was accepted that the Claimant did sustain an injury but the court found his evidence and the expert opinions (which flowed from his reporting to them) to be wholly unreliable. Accordingly, he quantified the PSLA at £9,000 with no allowance for special damages given the lack of reliable evidence in relation to loss of earnings and past gratuitous care.
The consequence of the judgment is that the claimant will have to repay a substantial interim payment and the Defendant’s costs, such being enforceable in light of the disapplication of qualified one way costs shifting (QOCs) per r.44.16(1).
Overall, the judgment highlights the ongoing importance of surveillance evidence in high value personal injury claims and provides a stark reminder of the consequences of exaggeration in such cases.