horwich farrelly

Own Goal for Fundamentally Dishonest Footballer

July, 16, 2015

A court has this week ruled a footballer’s claim for whiplash as being fundamentally dishonest. This was despite the case being discontinued after a damning dossier of evidence was submitted to his solicitors. The ruling, which saw the defendant awarded costs of £11,000, is one of the first findings of fundamental dishonesty in a case which did not reach trial.

The case centred on an incident which took place on 28 October 2013. Semi-professional footballer Gary Burnett, 24, was queuing at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Birkenhead, Merseyside. While he waited to place his order the driver in front reversed his car a short distance after overshooting the food order intercom. The driver misjudged the distance and bumped into Burnett’s stationary van causing very minor damage to the vehicles.

Footballer Preparing to Kick the Ball

No injuries were reported therefore it came as a shock to the driver (who had immediately admitted fault) and his insurers Aviva when Burnett submitted a claim worth up to £2,000 a few days later. The player, who also worked part-time as a window cleaner, claimed he had suffered injuries to his neck and back which left him unable to play for Cheshire-based Northwich Victoria, for around four weeks.

Aviva, represented by Horwich Farrelly, immediately launched an investigation into Burnett. The inquiry revealed that this was a complete fabrication and that the claimant actually played in a match the very next day on 29 October. He then went on to play several more times during the prognosis period, scoring for his team and picking up a Man of the Match award.

The evidence gathered against him included online match reports and his publicly-accessible Twitter account. This included a tweet “Nice little trek to Kendal later for footy” – referring to an away match in the Cumbrian town – which he posted the day after the incident. Further detective work showed him bragging online after knocking higher ranked team Nantwich Town out of the FA Trophy with a second-half goal, less than three weeks after the accident.

After Horwich Farrelly served this evidence on the claimant he discontinued his claim and his solicitors quickly came off record. However, as the case had not gone to trial the claimant automatically benefited from QOCS-protection.

Aviva, having incurred significant costs defending the claim before discontinuation, was not prepared to let the matter drop.

On our advice an application was made to remove QOCS protection and for a finding that the claim was fundamentally dishonest. That application was listed for 13 July 2015 in Wigan County Court.

The claimant failed to attend this week’s hearing. However, the Judge was still willing to find that the claim was fundamentally dishonest. The Judge accepted the claimant had misled his solicitors, his medical expert, the defendant and the Court. The Judge concluded Burnett had made a dishonest personal injury claim and had openly publicised his footballing achievements on social media.

The Judge ruled Burnett’s claim was fundamentally dishonest and ordered him to pay Aviva’s costs of £11,028. It is believed to be one of the first such findings in a case which was dropped before reaching the courts.

In addition to finding that the claim was fundamentally dishonest, the Judge has also referred the matter onto the Attorney General for further investigation. This result continues Horwich Farrelly market-leading success in overturning QOCS decisions and securing findings of fundamental dishonesty.

The evidence gathered showed Burnett’s claim was a complete fabrication therefore we did not think it was right that he escape justice by discontinuing the claim. By finding him fundamentally dishonest and removing QOCS protection the Judge has issued a red card to any would-be fraudster.

Particular credit for this outcome must go to associate David Scott who identified the probability of securing a finding of fundamental dishonesty and who worked closely with Aviva to maximise the chance of recovering their outlay.

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