by Dr Thomas Walford, Expert Evidence Founder and Chief Executive of Expert Evidence limited. He founded the group following over 25 years in dealing with client disputes within three major London banks. Thomas is an experienced expert witness and also a mediator and arbitrator.
This case is unusual in that it arises out of the collapse of an earlier case. The original case involved a car accident between taxi driver Mudassar Iqbal and Nicky Versloot in December 2011. Nicky Versloot, driving a Toyota Rav struck the Vauxhall Zefira driven by Mr Iqbal. Mr Iqbal wished to bring an action for the damages to his car against Ms Versloot and consulted “On Time Claims” for help with his claim. His injuries were minor and he hadn’t intended to claim for them. His case was duly referred by Shafiq Sultan (at On Time Claims) to Mr Khan, a solicitor. Mr Khan then instructed Med-Admin Ltd, a medico-legal agency run by his aunt, to arrange a medical report. Dr Zafar, the appointed doctor, examined Mr Iqbal on 17th February 2012 and in his first report (dated 17 February 2012) Dr Zafar reported that Mr Iqbal “had mild pain and stiffness in the neck on the day of the accident. These resolved one week from the accident. These symptoms were due to whiplash.“
While evidence was collected and papers were being prepared for the trial by Mr Ahmed, a paralegal with Mr Khan’s firm, it emerged that there were two different medical reports, one alleging far more long term injuries than the other, and both were dated 17 February 2012. Both medical reports were accidentally included in the trial bundle when only the second report had been served on the defendant. As a result of this ambiguity the case collapsed in 2013, with the trial judge giving directions for an investigation into how the two reports had come into existence.
Ms Versloot was insured by Liverpool Victoria who started to make investigations as to the reasons for the two differing medical reports. Liverpool Victoria alleged that in order to falsely boost the value of the claim (and thus to enable Mr Khan’s firm to be awarded a significant costs award) Mr Khan suggested, via Med-Admin, that the medical report should be revised. Mr Khan advised that Mr Iqbal had suffered ongoing moderate to severe back pain in his shoulders and neck, mild to moderate pain in his wrists, and pain in his lower back, with a likely recovery period of 6-8 months. The revised medical report included all those details and was also dated 17 February 2012.
It is alleged that each defendant was guilty of conduct which interfered with the administration of justice i.e. contempt of court. It is a contempt of court to engage in any conduct which involves an interference with the administration of justice, either in a particular case or generally as a continuing process. Liverpool Victoria were given permission to bring committal proceedings against the four defendants listed above on 33 counts of contempt.
Evidence was heard over seven days beginning 18 July 2018, with final submissions being heard on behalf of the parties on 26 July 2018. It emerged that, when the claimant interviewed Dr Zafar on 20 August 2013, he didn’t recall the report or being asked to amend it, and that the “one week pain” (i.e. the first) report was correct. However in a later statement he said he’d amended the report himself because the first report had only included acute symptoms. He said he’d amended the report on the basis of a letter from Mr Khan dated 22 February. Metadata (a summary data system) showed that the only copy of that letter, an electronic copy, was created on 28 August 2013. An email chain from 24 February 2012 had been disclosed from which it could be seen that Mr Khan told Dr Zafar that the driver was still experiencing pain, and requested that the report be amended as stated above. Mr Khan’s statement said that the driver was happy with the amended report. The driver, Mr Iqbar’s statement said that his pain had resolved within 3 days and that he hadn’t asked for any amendments. Although the Judge accepted that Dr Zafar’s report was not necessarily dishonest, she considered that he was reckless in allowing the revised report to be produced by his secretary and with no further clinical examination. He did not see or sign the revised report and had no such system to ensure that happened- he was so busy that he gave no thought as to whether the amendments were true or false, or clinically justified. He made no further enquiries about Mr Iqbal’s use of analgesics (which he wasn’t using at the time of the first report) and overlooked the fact that on original examination he’d considered him completely free of symptoms. At the very least Dr Zafar should have made further enquiry and that was his duty to the court. He was reckless, and accordingly he was held to be in contempt of court. He was given a suspended 6 month sentence. Mr Khan, the solicitor, was imprisoned for 12 months.
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