It is only right that genuine victims of clinical negligence are properly compensated – but the waters are sadly muddied for the honest many by a fraudulent few. Judges are alert to the problem, however, and in one case, a musician who grossly exaggerated his claim against the NHS ended up facing imprisonment.
There was no dispute that the man had been negligently treated in hospital for injuries he suffered when he was assaulted with a baseball bat. Fractures to two of his fingers had not been appropriately treated and a laceration to his lip became infected. The NHS trust that ran the hospital swiftly admitted liability and offered to pay him £30,000.
However, he persisted in a claim for £837,109 in damages on the basis that he found lifting and carrying difficult and that he had been unable to return to work or resume his career as a musician and disc jockey. He made very substantial claims for future care and loss of earnings on the proposition that he was grossly incapacitated.
After the trust's lawyers became suspicious, investigation of his social media activity and covert video surveillance footage gave the lie to much of what he had asserted under oath. It emerged that he had no problem using his hands and that his musical career had continued unabated. He had successfully released a single and a video, in which he was seen performing without any visible signs of discomfort.
Shortly before his claim was due to be heard, the man accepted the £30,000 offer that had been made by the trust five years previously. The whole of that sum, and more, was swallowed up by legal costs, so that the end result of eight years of litigation was that he owed the trust £5,000.
The trust did not leave matters there, however, and launched contempt proceedings against him. He conspicuously refused to engage in those proceedings, but the High Court found him guilty of contempt in his absence. He was, amongst other things, found to have repeatedly sought to mislead medical examiners and others in pursuit of his grossly inflated claim.
The maximum punishment for contempt is two years' imprisonment. However, the Court adjourned sentencing until a later date to give the man the opportunity to put forward any mitigation that might be available to him.