A personal injury claimant who lied over whether he had credit cards which could have been used to pay for a replacement car, instead of credit hire, was fundamentally dishonest, the High Court has ruled.
This was even though Mansur Haider had not been dishonest in the evidence he gave over the actual accident, despite not being successful.
Mr Haider, a taxi driver, sought damages after a rear-end shunt. He said a car suddenly turning left in front of him had caused him to slow down and the defendant’s vehicle to run into his BMW.
Rejecting the claim, His Honour Judge Tindal sitting at Birmingham County Court found that Mr Haider over-braked and overreacted to the manoeuvre in front of him and actually stopped, causing the accident.
But he also rejected the defendant’s case was it was a deliberately staged accident. He found the claimant to be “basically an honest man” whose recollection of the accident four years before was hazy.
As a result, there was no fundamental dishonesty and qualified one-way costs shifting (QOCS) applied.
On appeal in Haider v DSM Demolition Ltd  EWHC 2712 (QB), Mr Justice Julian Knowles rejected the claimant’s appeal against the ruling on the accident, but allowed the defendant’s application that the judge was wrong on fundamentally dishonest.
This was because the claimant did not disclose either on his list of documents or in his responses to part 18 questions that he held two credit cards and a second bank account.
The part 18 questions asked whether he could have afforded to hire a vehicle other than on credit, and if no, that he list all his credit cards and supply supporting information such as credit limits and statements. Mr Haider said he did not have any credit cards.
He only admitted this was wrong when it was put to him in cross-examination, but claimed that the second account was opened by the bank in error.
HHJ Tindal concluded that, while there had not been “particularly good disclosure”, it had not given him the impression that the claimant had been dishonest.
Julian Knowles J said: “In my judgment this conclusion was not reasonably open to the judge. It was plainly dishonest for the claimant not to have disclosed his credit cards or his second bank account and the accompanying documentation.
“The questions he was asked were not difficult (and he did not say that he had not properly understood them); they were in writing; he had time to consider his documentation; and he had the opportunity to take legal advice if he was unsure about how to answer and what to disclose.”
The claimant had concealed this information and this could not be explained on the grounds that he was being asked to recall events from four years previously.
“There was simply no basis on which the judge could properly have concluded that the claimant had simply got confused on these issues. The only possible reasonable inference from the evidence was that the claimant intentionally failed to make full disclosure, and that failure can only be labelled as dishonest.”
The question was whether this dishonesty was ‘fundamental’, in the sense explained by the Court of Appeal in Howlett v Davies & Anor  EWCA Civ 1696, where it said “a claimant should not be exposed to costs liability merely because he is shown to have been dishonest as to some collateral matter or perhaps as to some minor, self-contained head of damage”.
Julian Knowles J said it was. “The dishonesty in question did not relate to some collateral matter, but went to the root of a substantial part of the claim. The claim for credit hire charges (and associated losses) exceeded £30,000.
“The importance of the claimant giving proper disclosure about his financial circumstances needs to be emphasised. Part of the purpose of a statement of truth is to bring home to party signing the solemn nature of what s/he is doing, and importance of telling the truth.
“To knowingly give a false statement of truth is a contempt of court. Moreover… the county court cannot carry out an assessment of the issue of impecuniosity when a litigant fails to give full financial disclosure.
“By doing as he did, the claimant prevented the defendant from carrying out a proper investigation into his claimed impecuniosity. This skewed and distorted the presentation of his claim in a way that can only be termed fundamentally dishonest.”