WITNESS CREDIBILITY AGAIN: THE HIDDEN VICTIMS OF PERSONAL INJURY FRAUD: HONEST CLAIMANTS

This post should serve as a necessary balance/counterblast to the earlier post on the Sonae Industria case.  In that case some of the witnesses were found to be  honest and some patently dishonest.  It was a feature  of that case that only one of the witnesses had actually been to the GP to complain about symptoms arising from the smoke.  However the situation in the case of Manna -v- Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [2015] EWHC 2279 (QB).  Here the claimant’s witnesses were subject to “robust challenge” in circumstances where the medical evidence, and other supporting documentation, were supportive.  Here we have a defendant making assertions which were not supported by the medical and documentary evidence”. It was the parents of a severely injured child who were subjected, the judge found, to unwarranted attacks on their credibility.

THE CASE

The claimant suffered brain injury at birth. Liability was agreed at 50%. There was a dispute between the parties as to the extent of the claimant’s needs.

It is contended, however, that the case presented for the Claimant paints a far bleaker picture than is supported by the objective evidence.”

There were “robust” and “vigorous” challenges to the evidence given by the claimant’s parents and carers/

THE DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE

The judge carried out a very detailed analysis of the medical; educational and social care records and observed:

  1. “It is a feature of this case that there is also a large number of contemporaneous documents, in particular medical, social services and educational records. These documents have been helpful in assessing the credibility and reliability of disputed oral evidence, in particular the evidence of Mr and Mrs Cocking, which was the subject of robust challenge in a number of respects.”

THE JUDGE’S CONCLUSION

The defendant argued, amongst many other things, that the absence of reference to problems in the notes provided by the carers indicated that there was no problem. In fact, the judge found, this led to the opposite conclusion.
  1. It is correct that these notes do not make repeated references to Lamarieo’s poor sleeping patterns, or to him regularly soiling himself, but it is incontrovertibly the case on all the evidence that chronic constipation, overflow incontinence and poor sleep patterns have been a regular feature of Lamarieo’s life over the years. Their absence from Ms Lee’s notes is in my judgment an indicator of their regularity and familiarity, rather than of any absence or reduction in their frequency.
  2. I do not accept Mr Seabrook’s submission that these difficulties are now occasional or infrequent, or that Mr and Mrs Cocking have exaggerated them. The suggestion that Mr and Mrs Cocking have misled the professionals involved in assessing Lamarieo, or have exaggerated the problems currently being experienced is unsustainable. I find both Mr and Mrs Cocking to be honest and reliable historians, whose accounts are supported by the other evidence in the case, in particular the documentary evidence and the evidence of Sam Manna, Wendy Ruffle, and experts instructed in this case.”

OVERVIEW

There is, sometimes, an assumption that all claimants are fraudulent or exaggerating. Looking at the facts of some cases the reason that this view develops is easy to see. However the case highlights the importance of looking at each case on the merits.

RELATED POSTS ON WITNESS CREDIBILITY

1. Litigators must know about credibility.

2. Witness Statements and Witness Evidence: More about Credibility.

3. Which Witness will be believed?Is it all a lottery?

4. The witnesses say the other side is lying: What does the judge do?

5. Assessing the reliability of witnesses: How does the judge decide?

6.  Which witness is going to be believed? A High Court case.

7. The Mitchell case and witness evidence: credibility, strong views and reliability.

8. Witness statements and witness credibility: getting back to basics

9. Witness credibility: what factors does the Court look at?

10. That “difficult second statement”: its hardly ever going to be a hit.

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