In my weblog on 21 April 2022, I summarised the choice of the Courtroom within the case of Natasha Colley, a contempt of Courtroom dedicated by the Claimant’s mom and Litigation Good friend. This weblog focuses on an extra judgment for contempt: North Bristol NHS Belief -v- White. The case issues a declare for scientific negligence for Cauda Equina Syndrome the place the Claimant exaggerated the extent of her accidents.
The events in Miss White’s declare reached settlement in relation to legal responsibility – they agreed the Defendant pay 50% of the worth of Miss White’s declare. The settlement lined causation of Miss White’s Cauda Equina Syndrome however didn’t cowl the extent of signs stated to have been attributable to the Defendant.
Miss White valued her declare, in her Schedule of Loss, at £4.1 million plus a sum for normal damages for ache and struggling. Following receipt of the Schedule of Loss, the North Bristol NHS Belief instructed surveillance brokers to video Miss White to entry her stage of mobility and capabilities whereas out of the home. The surveillance video footage confirmed Miss White visiting supermarkets, getting out and in of her automotive freely and simply, strolling with none obvious limp, slowness or incapacity. She was additionally seen bending down and sorting garments at the back of her automotive.
North Bristol NHS Belief served its Counter Schedule pleading basic dishonesty and quantified the declare at round £34,000 plus normal damages for ache and struggling. The Belief additionally issued an software to strike out Miss White’s declare.
The strike out software was heard by His Honour Choose Gore QC who struck out Miss White’s declare for her failure to adjust to Courtroom instructions, and ordered her to repay interim funds of damages totalling £45,000.
North Bristol NHS Belief then commenced contempt proceedings and the evening earlier than the listening to Miss White agreed a clarified set of admissions acknowledging that:
1. She instructed her ache administration professional that “she was unable to stroll for 20 steps earlier than having to cease; if she didn’t use a crutch she was solely in a position to hobble”.
2. She instructed her care professional that “she couldn’t stroll for 10 metres earlier than stopping; she may climb slowly if she stopped each three steps; she may drive for 20 minutes; she used a crutch open air; she was unable to maneuver from kneeling to standing; she required supervision within the bathe and help along with her sneakers and socks.”
3. She instructed her OT professional that “when she went out she used one crutch; she had excessive problem with kneeling, squatting or working at low ranges; she discovered it extraordinarily troublesome to get down on to the ground to play along with her son.”
4. She instructed her neurosurgical professional that “exterior she walked with an elbow crutch; she may stroll for 10-20 steps earlier than needing to cease and relaxation; she couldn’t get out and in of the bathtub.”
In a witness assertion produced following receipt of the surveillance proof Miss White maintained her that she had not been dishonest. She stood by her earlier feedback on the extent to which her disabilities restricted day by day dwelling and impacted upon her private care wants.
The committal for contempt was heard by Mr Justice Ritchie on 24, 25 and 26 Might 2022. Ritchie J made a discovering of incontrovertible fact that between Might 2018 and January 2019 Miss White dishonestly and deliberately made false statements to 4 consultants who have been reporting to the Courtroom on her bodily situation. Within the context of a declare valued in extra of £4 million Ritchie J discovered past affordable doubt that the false statements regarding Miss White’s mobility had a price of not less than £1 million.
In gentle of this discovering of reality Ritchie J went on to move sentence for contempt.
Culpability and Hurt
It was famous that Miss White had been dishonest in a means that she misled many consultants throughout her scientific negligence declare. She continued that dishonesty in her witness assertion regardless of being proven the surveillance proof which had uncovered her dishonesty. She confirmed no perception, understanding or regret in doing so.
As to hurt precipitated, Ritchie J pointed to Miss White’s conduct that put the NHS, by means of the Belief, to extra expense in acquiring professional reviews, expending authorized charges and finishing up surveillance and bringing contempt proceedings. Her conduct additionally resulted in precious Courtroom time and assets getting used. She precipitated expenditure to the Authorized Assist system which can by no means be recovered.
Ritchie J pointed to the next components in mitigation:
1. Miss White had a 9 12 months outdated son;
2. She lived along with her mom who offered some care to her son;
3. Miss White had already suffered because of her dishonesty. She misplaced the residual worth of her scientific negligence declare which may have been as excessive as £150,000. She recovered £45,000 of interim funds however was ordered to repay this sum;
4. Miss White suffered a horrible bodily problem because of her degenerate spinal situation which first turned symptomatic when she was in her late teenagers;
5. Miss White had clearly suffered a serious depressive dysfunction (as evidenced by a psychiatric report) which had been recurrent and fluctuating. Her situation had a disruptive impact on her decision-making course of;
6. Miss White and her son have rights below the Human Rights Act to a household life, and Miss White has rights below the Equality Act 2010 because of her bodily disabilities, and
7. The time that had occurred between the tip of Miss White’s scientific negligence declare, the beginning of the contempt proceedings and the permission listening to. The proceedings had been hanging over her for for much longer than anybody would want in a perfect world. Nonetheless, the delays have been contributed to my Miss White’s failure to make full and frank admissions of her contempt till the final minute.
Ritchie J held the place to begin for contempt of Courtroom is a sentence of imprisonment of 12 months. Because of the mitigating components this was lowered to six months. Consideration then turned as to if the sentence ought to take speedy impact or be suspended.
At paragraph 101 of his judgment Ritchie J acknowledged whereas sentencing Miss White “I take into account that you just at present do current a danger to the general public purse and public establishments as results of your method to your scientific negligence declare in opposition to a tax payer funded organisation. I don’t take into account a suspended sentence would precisely ameliorate that danger. I take into account that you’ve got proven a historical past of poor compliance with Courtroom orders and guidelines regarding statements of fact within the scientific negligence declare and specifically your interplay with the consultants and your service of witness statements with statements of fact which contained dishonest falsities. No mitigation has been put ahead to indicate that there’s any previous rehabilitation in relation to your interactions with the NHS Belief or the DWP or any real looking prospect of rehabilitation in your interactions with State funded organisations.”
He continued at paragraph 103 stating “Lastly I don’t take into account that suspending the sentence will get the message throughout to you sufficiently strongly that: defrauding the NHS, which is funded by the tax payer is totally unacceptable. Nor wouldn’t it ship out the correct message to these at present suing NHS Trusts or those that will achieve this sooner or later.”
Miss White was sentenced to six months speedy imprisonment.
That is the third scientific negligence case in 5 months to have been the topic of contempt proceedings. Defendants and their advisers are clearly alive to the potential for claimants to magnify the affect their accidents have on each day dwelling. Miss White’s case is one other instance of the necessity for claimants to be suggested on the consequence of constructing false statements, the very fact Defendants can, and do, search surveillance proof and the significance of verifying a claimant’s model of occasions.
Claimant advisers ought to as a matter after all conduct an in depth assessment of disclosure materials (medical and DWP information, social media and different third social gathering disclosure materials). Moreover, witness statements for claimants shouldn’t solely concentrate on what a claimant can not do because of their accidents, but additionally summarise what they can do on a great, dangerous and typical day.
On the finish of his judgment, Ritchie J set out an appendix of related sentencing in comparable circumstances. That is helpful studying for many who concentrate on medical negligence and private damage litigation – the judgment is accessible on this hyperlink.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Lodge is a Accomplice within the Medical Negligence and Private Harm apply and has been recognised inside the discipline of scientific/medical negligence inside the Chambers UK and Authorized 500 directories. He’s an individually ranked lawyer for scientific negligence inside Chambers UK, A Shopper’s Information to the UK Authorized Occupation.