High Court dismisses fundamentally dishonest £850,000 personal injury claim

Facebook: Claimant’s posts contrasted with his claim

The High Court has dismissed in its entirety a £850,000 personal injury claim on the grounds of fundamental dishonesty.

Her Honour Judge Coe QC, sitting as a High Court judge, said film director David Pinkus not only exaggerated his symptoms while giving evidence, but “deliberately and consciously lied to me”.

HHJ Coe said that at the trial in January, Mr Pinkus was “often angry and loud”, sometimes “shouted” and questioned counsel for the defendant’s right to challenge his credibility.

“I specifically find that he has exaggerated his symptoms. I find that he has done so consciously. In particular he has given inconsistent accounts of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms deliberately to relate his ongoing illness to the accident.

“Additionally, he has exaggerated his memory difficulties. I found his performance in the witness box was unconvincing.”

HHJ Coe said it was noteworthy that Mr Pinkus’s memory failed him when he was being asked more challenging questions about his credibility but “his memory was clear when he wished to make a point about the extent of his difficulties”.

The judge said Mr Pinkus “deliberately lied about his ability to follow a newspaper or a book”, lied when he said he had not told his wife about his illness and “deliberately and consciously lied to me” on other occasions.

From the claimant’s Facebook posts, HHJ Coe said “it would seem that he was able to present an entirely normal face to the world”.

She went on: “He has been on enjoyable holidays and partaken in normal family activities. He enters into light-hearted and joking banter with friends. He enters into emotionally warm interactions with friends particularly at times of anniversaries and birthdays and so on.”

The judge said that by reference to Facebook posts Mr Pinkus “seems to have been living his life normally”, yet by reference to the accounts he gave experts and his presentation in the witness box, “he is a broken shell of a man unable to do almost anything”.

The court heard in Pinkus v Direct Line [2018] EWHC 1671 that Mr Pinkus sued for damages after a road traffic accident in August 2012 on the M4 motorway.

He argued that although the physical injuries were minor, the “terrifying accident” triggered post-traumatic stress disorder, leading him to lose his job and adversely affecting family relationships.

Direct Line argued that Mr Pinkus sustained minor physical injuries and “some short-lived travel anxiety/adjustment disorder which resolved by early 2013”. They argued that the claim was exaggerated/fabricated and worth no more than £2-3,000.

HHJ Coe said she had reached “the clear conclusion” that the claimant had not established on the balance of probability that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The consequences of the accident were short-lived. I have no doubt that he has been dishonest.”

The judge found that the claimant suffered “some minor physical injuries and a period of travel phobia which was not sufficient to stop him driving but which did develop into a minor adjustment disorder with anxiety (to which he was vulnerable) and mild depression, resolving by about March 2013”.

HHJ Coe awarded Mr Pinkus £4,250 in general damages, plus a possible £250 to cover the insurance excess.

However, the judge went on to consider the ‘fundamental dishonesty’ set out in section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, which allows the courts to dismiss in a claim in its entirety.

She found that Mr Pinkus had not been honest “in many respects” and had deliberately exaggerated symptoms and fabricated memory loss in a way so “extreme” it prevented the claimant’s doctors from reaching a diagnosis.

“In the witness box his ‘performance’ was so extreme that I raised an issue as to his capacity to litigate.”

HHJ Coe concluded that Mr Pinkus had been fundamentally dishonest.

“In this case the primary claim must be dismissed. I am not satisfied that the claimant would suffer any substantial injustice beyond the loss of the valid part of his claim.

“The obvious reason for such fabrication is financial gain. I can think of no other reason why this claimant would behave as he has. The pleaded schedule of loss is for a significant sum of money.”

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