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Finding of fundamental dishonesty in a HAVS case

Judgment has been handed down in the case of Compton v S&K Groundworks & others.

What the case was about

This was a hand-arm vibration syndrome case where the Claimant alleged exposure to vibrating tools while working as a ground worker.

The Defendants accused the Claimant of significantly overstating his exposure to vibrating tools. It was also argued that he was not suffering from HAVS, but idiopathic or “primary” Raynaud’s. Notably, he had initially failed to declare a family history of Raynaud’s to his medical expert. The Claimant’s social media records were obtained, which demonstrated his interest in surfing (which he said his symptoms prevented him from doing) and motocross (a potential other source of vibration exposure).

A further notable feature of the case was the recency of the alleged exposure – all since 2010. The Defendants were able to call several witnesses to testify as to the reality of the Claimant’s vibration exposure.

The trial was heard over 4 days in late 2022 before HHJ Holmes. The engineering and medical experts all gave live evidence.

The judge’s findings

The judge found that the Claimant had failed to demonstrate that his use of vibrating tools was anything like as extensive as he alleged, and the claim failed at the first hurdle. Additionally, the Claimant was found to have told a series of lies in relation to the case as a whole, which collectively amounted to fundamental dishonesty.

The importance of the case

It is rare for a HAVS case to fight to trial, and even rarer to secure a finding of fundamental dishonesty.

Of wider interest are HHJ Holmes’s observations on fundamental dishonesty generally.

First, he held that it was not necessary for someone actually to have been misled by a lie:

“the intent and the effect are two different things. It is not necessary that someone has actually been misled, it is enough that something untruthful was said in relation to a fundamental aspect of the case.” (para. 177)

Of course, by the time a judge gets to this stage of the analysis a lie will ex hypothesi have been exposed.

Second, the Court is entitled to take into account the cumulative effect of the matters in relation to which a Claimant has been dishonest:

“the cumulative effect of the matters in relation to which [the Claimant] has been dishonest drive to me to the conclusion that he has been fundamentally dishonest. The more untruths told, the less deserving of the QOCS protection, or more deserving of the punitive effect of s.57, the claimant is. In my judgment there must come a point when the court can stand back and look at a number of lies and take them together cumulatively.” (para. 179)

Jack Macaulay represented the second defendant, instructed by Stephen Evans of Keoghs.

A link to the judgment is available here.


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