(1) Lorna Howlett (2) Justin Howlett v (1) Penelope Davies (2) Ageas Insurance Ltd [2017] EWCA Civ 1696

In this case, the Claimants had brought claims for losses arising from a road traffic accident in March 2013. The Second Defendant’s Defence denied that an accident occurred as alleged or at all, and went on to identify 12 factors which it considered supported its position. The Defence expressly indicated that it did not assert a positive case of fraud. The Claimants argued that the Defendant could only adopt one of two positions: either positively assert fraud in its pleading, or accept that the accident occurred and caused injuries. The Claimants further argued that given fraud had not been alleged, it was not open to the Court to conclude that the Claimants had been fundamentally dishonest. In considering the case, the Court of Appeal distinguished case law including the case of Three Rivers DC v Bank of England (No 3), on the basis that such cases were concerned with what claimants must allege and prove where their claim depends on fraud having been committed by the defendant, and were not opining on what a defendant must plead and prove. The Court of Appeal held that defendants to personal injury claims do not need to expressly plead their intention to rely on the claimant having been fundamentally dishonest. It is sufficient for claimants to be given adequate warning of, and proper opportunity to deal with, the points that a defendant will take at trial, which may lead a Judge to arrive at the conclusion that a claimant has been fundamentally dishonest. In this case, the Defence had expressly stated that the Second Defendant did not accept that an accident had occurred, and gave the Claimants sufficient notice of the points that would be relied on at trial in inviting the Court to find that the claims were fundamentally dishonest. The Claimants could not fairly say that they were ambushed. Further, the cross examination of the Claimants had indicated from the outset that their credibility was in issue, and it was therefore clear that the Judge would be considering matters of dishonesty and exaggeration.