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Claimant admits fundamental dishonesty at the commencement of trial

7th February 2018

James Arney, instructed by DWF, represented John Lewis Partnership PLC, against whom a claim for damages had been pursued by the Claimant, Miss Nicola Stephani.

Miss Stephani had put forward a claim which was discovered to be dishonest in relation to causation, the extent of functional recovery and loss/expenses claimed. The claim was settled at trial by the Claimant making a £20,000 contribution to the Defendant’s costs, and her accepting a finding of fundamental dishonesty for the purpose of rendering those costs enforceable pursuant to CPR 44.16(1).

James Arney, instructed by DWF, represented John Lewis Partnership PLC, against whom a claim for damages had been pursued by the Claimant, Miss Nicola Stephani.

Miss Stephani’s claim was that she sustained an ankle injury due to a flooring defect in a John Lewis branch in May 2013, and had significant symptoms until at least April 2016, and on this basis she claimed significant damages.

The injury, she alleged, prevented her from pursuing a range of pre-accident activities such as running and exercise classes at the gym. She claimed she could run for no more than 30-60 seconds. Her ParkRun records, gym attendance records, and frequent and detailed commentary regarding her exercise endeavours on Facebook were found to be inconsistent with her claims.  Miss Stephani was also dishonest in a number of less central aspects of her claim.  Examples included producing a receipt for dog sitting expenses allegedly incurred on a date when surveillance footage showed her walking it.

Miss Stephani compounded her deceit when, on the same day as signing inaccurate Part 18 Replies, she attempted to cover up online records of her ParkRun activities.

Mr Arney produced an amended defence for John Lewis, pleading Fundamental Dishonesty and the disapplication of QOCS. Shortly after receipt of the amended defence, Miss Stephani’s solicitors withdrew and she proceeded to represent herself.

Protracted negotiations followed as the trial date approached, culminating in a settlement which required Miss Stephani to pay a £20,000 contribution towards John Lewis’ costs, and to accept her dishonesty so that these costs were enforceable for QOCS purposes.

Appearing before the trial judge, His Honour Judge Hughes QC, to ratify the agreement, the judge made clear that Miss Stephani was free to choose between the compromise offered, and proceeding with a contested trial.

He also made clear that from his consideration of the papers, John Lewis appeared to have shown that Miss Stephani had been thoroughly dishonest, and was at risk of the case papers being referred for potential committal proceedings in the event that specific findings were made.

In the context of whether the Claimant might be inclined to go to the press, HHJ Hughes QC stressed that the Court papers, including Mr Arney’s skeleton were matters of public record.

Related Barristers

James Arney QC

James Arney QC
Year of Call: 1992
Year of Silk: 2021

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