In the first case to consider the meaning of fundamental dishonesty following the reforms of Lord Justice Jackson, Ageas and its legal representatives Weightmans have successfully defended a Court of Appeal review, finding a claimant’s complaint fundamentally dishonest following a road traffic accident.
The case was Howlett v Davies and Ageas. Lorna and Justin Howlett brought a claim for damages following a minor road traffic accident. Ageas, as the insurer of the first defendant, had concerns as to the validity of the claims and worked with a team at Weightmans to investigate the suspected fraud.
At trial, and after four days of evidence, the Deputy District Judge concluded that “…there is not one part of the story as explained to me by Mr and Mrs Howlett that gives me any confidence that the accident as described by them and Ms Davies on 27 March 2013 happened as described or at all…”
In dismissing the claims, the Deputy District Judge found the claims to have been ‘fundamentally dishonest’. A subsequent appeal failed. The Court of Appeal has also rejected the appeal of Mrs Howlett, ruling that the interpretation of fundamental dishonesty as previously provided by His Honour Judge Moloney QC in the case of Gosling v Hailo was common sense, and an insurer need not specifically allege fundamental dishonesty for a trial judge to make such finding.
James Langdown, Counter Fraud Manager at Ageas said;
“'Whilst fundamental dishonesty findings are becoming more frequent, this case supports Ageas' current counter fraud litigation strategy of not entering this Defence if we choose not to, as a Judge has the power to find this based on well presented evidence. We believe this case further strengthens the ability to defeat suspicious or fraudulent claims, helping to reduce the premiums of our honest policyholders.”
Iain Davison, Partner at Weightmans added:
“The Court of Appeal has finally endorsed the comments of HHJ Moloney QC in Gosling. The case will hopefully end any speculation as to what is required of a defendant in terms of the content of statements of case in similar matters.”