A claim for in excess of £1.5m brought by a 60 year old former managing director, Richard Walkden, against Drayton Manor Park has been dismissed by HHJ Murdoch on the grounds it was dishonestly exaggerated.
On 18 April 2014 Mr Walkden, his wife and son were in a gondola at the theme park when it swung after it was pushed too hard by a ride operator. Mrs Walkden and their son suffered very minor injuries. Mr Walkden in contrast claimed to have suffered a severe back injury and claimed to have developed a chronic pain syndrome which prevented him from working normally. He alleged his Leicestershire based ground source heat pump company, Eartheat, went downhill over the next 3 years forcing him to sell it for a nominal sum after a heart attack resulting in him losing over £1m. He also claimed he was in so much pain he could not bend his back at all and needed care from his wife for 2 hours every day.
Six years after the accident, a two week trial took place in March 2020 at which Mr Walkden was represented by Satinder Hunjan QC and Affinity Law. When the claim was litigated, Drayton Manor’s insurers, QBE Insurance, instructed Andrew Mclaughlin of St John’s Chambers and Anthony Bushell, Partner at Plexus Law.
Mr Walkden was cross-examined over 2 days at trial during which the Judge held he groped for explanations when confronted with inconsistencies in his claim. Mr Hunjan QC urged the court to accept his client was honest and truthful and he had been left seriously disabled by what he alleged was a horrific accident.
In a written judgment handed down on 7 July 2020 the Judge said Mr Walkden was evasive, he misrepresented and exaggerated the effects of the accident, he was untruthful about his past medical history, he failed to disclose documents and he lied about the reasons he had stopped work. The Judge found Mrs Walkden was also not credible.
Five medical experts, as well as an accountant, were called to give evidence on Mr Walkden’s behalf including Consultant Neurologist, Dr Stephen Allder and Professor of Psychological Medicine, Professor Kathryn Abel, but their opinions were rejected, the Judge saying he preferred the evidence of each of the Defendants experts who had also carefully analysed covert video surveillance of Mr Walkden which showed he had a good range of movement of his back and was far less disabled than he had claimed.
Mr Walkden had made a separate claim on an income protection policy following, what the court found to be, an unrelated heart attack in 2017 but resisted disclosing the documents he had submitted in support of that claim until shortly before the trial and only after relentless pressure from Plexus Law, who obtained 2 court orders against him. Despite this, some important documents were not even sent until after the trial had finished.
The Judge held the documents showed Mr Walkden had lied to the court and this reinforced his conclusion about Mr Walkden’s lack of credibility.
The Judge assessed damages at £17,600, just 1% of the damages claimed, but ruled Mr Walkden should receive nothing, and his claim should be dismissed with him paying the costs of the entire action because he had been fundamentally dishonest.
Anthony Bushell said:
“A forensic investigation of the case and detailed analysis of the voluminous documentation and medical records, combined with social media profiling, covert surveillance, the instruction of highly experienced medical experts and excellent Counsel, all backed by QBE, meant we were able to evidence to the Court that the Claimant was bringing a hugely exaggerated and fundamentally dishonest claim which resulted in the Claimant receiving nothing other than an order to pay the costs of the entire action on an indemnity basis.”
The Defendant was represented by Julian Mahon of QBE, Leeds, Anthony Bushell, of Plexus Law, Evesham and Andrew McLaughlin of St Johns Chambers, Bristol.
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If you would like to know more about this matter, please speak to your contacts at Plexus Law/St John’s Chambers:
Anthony Bushell, Partner
T: 01386 578 886 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew McLaughlin, Barrister
T: 0117 923 4700 | E: Andrew.McLaughlin@stjohnschambers.co.uk | W: www.stjohnschambers.co.uk