The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) should investigate a personal injury firm involved in “layering” a claim with further costs, given evidence that this is a pattern of behaviour, a judge has suggested.
District Judge Lumb in Oxford held that the claim by Noreen Khan after a low-speed car accident was fundamentally dishonest, saying she “took a chance on bringing an opportunistic claim for damages”.
He continued: “It may be that her initial dishonesty was only in relation to whether she was injured or not and the extent of those injuries but she then found herself caught up in a business model that was being operated by others that she could not escape from and had to play her part in seeking to cover up the activities of others.”
The evidence indicated collusion between solicitors, medical experts and others, he said.
Ms Khan instructed Buckinghamshire firm Simply Legal. The case did not settle in the Claims Portal as quantum was in dispute.
Proceedings were issued with medical reports from Mr Adnan Majid, described as a medico-legal practitioner, and a clinical psychologist’s report by Dr Faisal Mir.
The schedule of loss claimed for 10 sessions of physiotherapy and 10 sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) at a cost of £850 and £1,500 respectively.
A witness statement from an investigator working for DWF, the defendant Aviva’s solicitors, detailed claims for other accidents where Simply Legal was acting and instructed Mr Majid and Dr Mir, involving Med-Room Solutions Ltd (MRSL) and identical physiotherapy and CBT programmes.
This was deployed as similar fact evidence “demonstrating a business model of deliberately layering claims for the cost of unnecessary or non-existent rehabilitation treatment for financial gain”, the judge explained in his ruling in November, which has just been passed to Legal Futures.
He said he found Ms Khan “a quite unconvincing witness”. He explained: “The various accounts of her alleged injuries, the time of onset of each and the duration of her symptoms were wildly inconsistent.”
The question, he continued, was whether she had merely failed to come up to proof in relation to her injuries or had given a dishonest account.
DJ Lumb rejected Ms Khan’s claim that she had initiated contact with MRSL without any referral from Simply Legal.
“While giving evidence over the CVP link it was noticeable that the claimant appeared to be referring to something written down in front of her,” he recounted.
“She was asked to show what this was and held it up to the screen. It was a crib sheet with important dates in the timeline of her story including that it was on the 15 May 2019 that she had first telephoned MRSL.
“This on its own is highly suspicious and indicative of an aide memoire to assist in giving false and dishonest evidence.”
One of the directors of Simply Legal – a non-solicitor – and the sole director of MRSL were brothers and both companies operated from the same building. It was “stretching credulity beyond breaking point to suggest that Simply Legal were not involved in the referral”, DJ Lumb said.
“It is also beyond credible that the claimant took it upon herself to contact Time Reflection Therapy Limited to arrange for her CBT treatment assessment and subsequent treatment after receipt of Dr Mir’s report when she already had by that time an established relationship with MRSL, who she would have expected to have arranged treatment for her as they had done for the physiotherapy.”
The assertion that Ms Khan made these approaches herself only arose upon the service of a reply to the defence.
The judge said: “They amounted to a clumsy attempt to distance the solicitors and medical agency from what was more likely than not to be a cosy arrangement in the management of personal injury claims.”
Taken with the other cases highlighted by DWF, DJ Lumb said there was “clear evidence of the layering of this claim and others as alleged by the defendants”.
Mr Majid was not called to give oral evidence and so was not subject to cross-examination. The judge said: “I cannot really therefore conclude anything more than a high degree of suspicion with regard to the quality of his reports and how much reliance can be placed upon them.”
He said the General Medical Council might consider investigating both Mr Majid and Dr Mir, while “the Solicitors Regulation Authority may also wish to investigate the handling of claims by Simply Legal”.
An SRA spokesman said: “We are looking into the information we have before deciding on next steps.”
MRSL director Qadeer Raja was “a very unsatisfactory witness”, DJ Lumb went on, with parts of his evidence “demonstrably untrue”.
His efforts to distance himself from any links with Simply Legal was “such an implausible position to take that it was inevitable that it would simply add strength to the suspicion of a collusion from start to finish involving the claimant herself, her solicitors, Simply Legal, MRSL and the medical experts Mr Majid and Dr Mir”.
DJ Lumb concluded that Ms Khan may have become caught up in a business model from which she could not escape from and had to play her part in seeking to cover up the activities of others.
“The signing of the credit agreements to postpone payment of the treatment fees and the use of a crib sheet to make sure that she told the correct story during her oral evidence are good examples of her involvement in a collusion as is the implausible suggestion that she instructed the treatment providers herself when she had solicitors acting for her who were closely connected with MRSL.
“If there had been any doubt that her claim was fundamentally dishonest, her collusion with the solicitors and medical agency confirms that this was indeed a fundamentally dishonest claim.”
Simply Legal has not responded to requests for comment. We have approach Mr Majid and Dr Mir for comment.