Fraudulent gastric illness claims

Date: 03/05/2018
Author: Victoria Brown

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the original author or contributor.  These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the UK P&I Club.

Fraudulent gastric illness claims have become more and more common in recent times, so it is with great pleasure that we report that we were able to foil one such claim. 

The Claimants, a married couple, took a cruise with one of our Members. They claimed to have suffered various debilitating gastric symptoms as a result of ingesting infected food onboard, causing them to be confined to their cabin for three days, and ruining their holiday. 

Our suspicions were raised given that no other passengers had reported similar symptoms, and the Claimants had not reported to the onboard doctor despite the alleged severity of theirs. 

Our investigations with the ship revealed that during the time the Claimants were allegedly cabin bound, rushing to and from the bathroom, they were in fact eating and drinking considerable amounts in the ship’s restaurants and bars, and going ashore for hours at a time. 

Proceedings had been issued by the Claimants’ solicitors, which added an extra dimension to the deceit since the Claimants had signed a “Statement of Truth” on the claim form, attesting to the veracity of its contents. Signing a Statement of Truth in relation to something a person knows to be false can lead to a charge of contempt of court.

We instructed our solicitor to write in the strongest terms to the Claimants’ solicitors, pointing out that we considered the claim to be fraudulent, and were also considering reporting the Claimants to the police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department. The letter also referred the solicitors to the Warning Notice from the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, issued in September 2017 in the wake of a spate of fraudulent gastric illness claims, which required legal firms to have robust vetting procedures in place to avoid ending up acting for fraudulent clients. We pointed out that any such procedures the Claimants’ solicitors had in place had clearly failed miserably in this case. 

The response to our letter was swift – the Claimants’ solicitors confirmed that they had advised their clients that their claims were without merit and should be discontinued. We were determined to pursue the Claimants for the legal costs incurred (a Defendant is entitled to do this when a Claimant discontinues a claim), and we rejected what we regarded as a somewhat desperate suggestion from the Claimants that they would discontinue their claims if we agreed not to pursue them for costs. 

The claims were discontinued and the Claimants’ solicitors came off the Court record as acting for them. We then served our claim for costs directly on the Claimants. 

Contrary to all our expectations, within less than a week, the Claimants sent a cheque covering the entirety of the costs - over £12,000. We were left wondering what kind of mentality would lead someone who has a spare £12,000 rattling around to make a claim that would have netted them less than a tenth of that amount after their solicitors had taken their cut.

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About the Author:

Fraudulent gastric illness claims

Senior Claims Executive

Victoria joined Thomas Miller in 2008. She is a qualified solicitor and prior to joining the company, worked for a City law firm for 10 years, where she mainly handled personal injury litigation. 

As a member of the people claims team, Victoria handles a wide variety of people related claims, focusing particularly on crew and passenger claims for French and US members. She also handles occupational disease, stowaway claims and claims arising from stevedore injuries.

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