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Ex-wife’s tip-off uncovers case of stolen identity leading to award of exemplary damages

News And Events02/08/2017

Judge remarks on ‘overwhelming’ evidence of fraud as claimant ordered to pay exemplary damages and costs following finding of fundamental dishonesty

In the recent case of Phillips v Zurich Insurance, a claimant’s elaborate deception rapidly unravelled after his ex-wife uncovered evidence of fraudulent activity while clearing out the marital home.

The claim arose from a genuine incident when the insured driver collided with the claimant (Mr Phillips) who was driving his ex-wife’s car out of a side road. Whilst her losses were settled with no issue, Mr Phillips claimed whiplash injuries, loss of earnings (as a self-employed HGV driver), along with other costs such as taxi journeys and gym membership.

Suspicions arose when his ex-wife discovered medical reports, along with blank taxi receipts and other documents which pointed to fraud. She tipped Zurich off, who in turn instructed Keoghs to look into the allegations further.

Investigations by Keoghs’ counter-fraud team revealed a raft of incriminating evidence;

  • The claimant alleged he couldn’t work as a driver but still had to make deliveries, so hired a man named Ron Oakley to drive for him, for which he was claiming £14,000. The invoice was extremely suspect, and Keoghs tracked down Mr Oakley only to find he was retired having previously worked for the same agency as Mr Phillips. There was only one conclusion… the claimant had stolen Mr Oakley’s identity, set up a fake company in the name of ‘Ron Oakley driver hire’, and put in a claim for £14,000.
  • Keoghs also obtained a statement from Mr Philips’ ex-wife who advised that he had, in fact, been attending work every day. In terms of the claimant’s credibility, she also stated he had previously lied to his family saying he had cancer, even forging hospital referral letters.
  • His employer then provided a statement confirming he had, in fact, worked every day.  Delivery receipts supporting the statement were also obtained.
  • Closer examination of the taxi invoices also revealed that claimant himself was filling these out, using his brother’s name.

Armed with such damning evidence, Keoghs and Zurich amended the defence to fundamental dishonesty and pursued a counter claim for exemplary damages.

A statement was then obtained from the real Mr Oakley and an application made to rely on it, at which point the claimant’s solicitor unsurprisingly came off record.

Matters moved swiftly towards a conclusion hereon in, with the court granting a request for the claimant to disclose bank statements showing payments to Mr Oakley or, at least, the cash leaving his account. Mr Phillips failed to comply and his claim, along with his defence to the counterclaim, was struck out on 31 May.

On 7 June, the court awarded Zurich exemplary damages of £20,000 along with costs, stating that evidence of the claimant’s fraud was ‘overwhelming’.

Following the judgment, Keoghs Solicitor, Jessica Swire, said;

“This is a particularly rewarding result given the level of deceit displayed by the claimant and the severity of the punishment following our counter claim for exemplary damages. With opportunistic fraud becoming an ever increasing issue for the industry, it is vital that insurers continue to take a stand against such claims.”

Scott Clayton, Zurich Claims Fraud & Investigations Manager, added;

“Thanks to great collaboration between Zurich and Keoghs, this serial liar finally met his match. Some people will stop at nothing to pursue fraudulent claims but thanks to our robust approach, endorsed by the courts, he might think twice about doing so in the future.”