The Wedding “Crashers”

In the recent Sheriff Court case of PA v RK & UK INSURANCE LIMITED T/A DIRECT LINE [2017] SC FOR 6 an Insurer successfully defeated a Pursuer’s claim for damages including personal injury, arising from a road traffic accident.

No appearance was entered by the Defender but to protect their interests the Motor Insurers of the Defender’s vehicle entered the action as Party Minuters to defend the action.

The case proceeded to Proof with evidence being led on behalf of the Pursuer and the Party Minuters.

The Pursuer alleged that in August 2014 his Honda Accord was in collision with the Defender’s Nissan Skyline as a result of which he sustained injury.

During the course of his evidence, the Pursuer initially denied knowing the Defender. He also denied having attended the Defender’s wedding in April 2014, some four months before the accident.

However following a short adjournment the Party Minuters were allowed to lodge photographs taken from the Defender’s Facebook page which showed the Pursuer as having attended as a guest at the Defender’s wedding. The Pursuer accepted he had attended a wedding but that it was purely coincidental that the Defender happened to be the groom. The Pursuer’s explanation was that he did not know the groom very well and had no idea whose wedding it was, having being invited to accompany his partner.

The Pursuer also gave evidence that he had not spoken to the Defender since the accident except for a couple of occasions when they met at a gym.

Despite not having entered the action, the Defender was called as a witness for the Pursuer. The Defender gave evidence to the effect that his Nissan had indeed collided with the Pursuer’s Honda.

He initially denied knowing the Pursuer and said he had not met him before. The Defender did concede that the Pursuer’s partner was a friend of his wife but he did not know the Pursuer before the wedding.

In cross examination, the Defender accepted he had met the Pursuer from time to time after the accident at a gym they both attended but they did not speak substantively about the Pursuer’s claim. Interestingly the Defender also admitted to having the Pursuer’s phone number stored in his mobile phone and that he had deleted the number on the morning of the Proof after arriving at Court!

At the conclusion of the evidence, Counsel for the Pursuer submitted that decree should be awarded in favour of the Pursuer. Conversely Counsel for the Party Minuters invited the Sheriff to grant Decree of Absolvitor and went as far as to suggest both the Pursuer and the Defender had told “out and out lies to get money”.

In assessing the evidence the Sheriff found that the Pursuer attended the Defender’s wedding reception as a guest and that they both knew each other as at the date of the wedding.

Considering both the Pursuer and Defender’s evidence the Sheriff found he could not accept either of them as credible or reliable witnesses. The Sheriff found the Pursuer to be “vague in the extreme about when and how the accident occurred”.

On that basis, the Sheriff held the Pursuer had failed on the balance of probabilities to establish how and when the accident happened. The Sheriff accordingly granted Decree of Absolvitor and the Party Minuters were awarded the expenses of the action with sanction for junior Counsel.

In addition, the Sheriff instructed the Sheriff Clerk to send a copy of the judgment to the local Procurator Fiscal (the Crown Prosecutor) because the circumstances of the case gave rise to at least a suggestion that there may have been an attempt to obtain compensation by deception.

This case is a very unusual example of a Pursuer failing because the Sheriff was unable to decide who may have been at fault. Here, the Sheriff wasn’t prepared to accept the evidence of either driver and effectively considered that the accident may actually have been “staged”.

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