Claimant held in contempt of court for grossly exaggerating negligence claim

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Calderdale Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust v Sandip Singh Atwal [2018] EWHC 961 (QB) — read judgment

In a landmark case an NHS trust has successfully brought contempt proceedings against a DJ who grossly exaggerated the effect of his injuries in an attempt to claim over £800,000 in damages for clinical negligence. He faces a potential jail sentence.

 

Background

In June 2008 Sandip Singh Atwal attended the A&E department of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary with injuries to his hands and lip sustained after being attacked with a baseball bat. In 2011 Mr Atwal sued Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation trust for negligence, alleging a failure to treat his injuries appropriately. The trust admitted liability, offering Mr Atwal £30,000 to settle the case. Mr Atwal did not accept the offer and in 2014 made a claim for £837,109. The claim including substantial sums for future loss of earnings and care, on the basis that he was unable to work and was grossly incapacitated as a result of his injuries.

The trust were suspicious of Mr Atwal’s claimed disabilities, which were out of all proportion to his injuries and were inconsistent with entries in his contemporaneous medical records. In 2015 they commissioned covert video surveillance of Mr Atwal and investigated his social media postings. The footage showed him working as a courier, lifting heavy items without visible signs of discomfort and dancing in a music video for a single he had released. This led the trust to plead fraudulent exaggeration and to seek to strike out the whole of the special damages claim as an abuse of process. In 2016, shortly before the assessment of damages hearing, Mr Atwal accepted the trust’s offer of £30,000. However the whole £30,000 in compensation was swallowed up in paying the trust’s costs. In fact, Mr Atwal owed a further £5,000 to the trust after eight years of litigation.

 

Contempt Proceedings

In November 2016 the trust made an application to bring committal proceedings against Mr Atwal for contempt of court, claiming that he had pursued a fraudulent claim for damages for clinical negligence by grossly exaggerating the continuing effect of his injuries. It alleged two forms of contempt:

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