I am grateful to barrister William Rankin for sending me a copy of the judgment of Recorder Knifton KC in Hamblett -v- Liverpool Wholesale Flowers Limited (Liverpool County Court, 23rd January 2023)  a copy of which can be found here  Hamblett.  The case involves a finding of fundamental dishonesty in a personal injury claim.  The claimant was found to have doctored an invoice, said to be produced by the defendant, in an attempt to damage the credibility of a witness.  This was found to be an act that went to the root of the claim and QOCS was disapplied on the grounds of dishonesty.


The claimant, a professional florist, was injured when attending the defendant’s wholesale market.  She brought an action for damages for personal injury. Her case was that she slipped on water on the floor of the market.  The defendant asserted that there was some other cause and it was not negligent.


Shortly before trial the claimant produced an invoice, said to be produced by the defendant, which sought the costs of the flowers that were damaged in the claimant’s fall.   The defendant denied producing the invoice. Extensive steps were taken to show that the invoice adduced was not genuine and could not have been produced at the time alleged by the claimant.   The judge accepted that the invoice was not authentic.

The claimant failed to establish the cause of her fall and she failed on liability.  The judge considered that there was evidence of dishonesty, partly in relation to exaggeration of the claim, but also in relation to the faked invoice.


“I reject the evidence of the Claimant and her husband. Whilst I remind myself of the need for cogent evidence before making a finding of deliberate dishonesty, I am satisfied to a very high standard that the evidence overwhelmingly establishes that the document at page 58 was issued to the Claimant in respect of a genuine order on 25th August 2017, rather than
following the accident on 30th May 2018. In my judgment, it has been deliberately torn so as to conceal the invoice number, and altered so as to add the words “broken flowers” and the date 30th May 2018. It was then adduced in evidence with the deliberate intention of deceiving the Court into believing not only that Mr Appleton was a heartless individual, but in order to undermine the reliability of his Part 18 response and to suggest that he was acting dishonestly. I am left in no doubt that the accounts given by the Claimant and Mr Hamblett in their witness statements, verified in each case by a statement of truth, were false. I am further satisfied that the accounts given in their oral evidence were false.
I was invited by Mr Cullen in his closing submissions on the Claimant’s behalf to find that there was no direct evidence that she, as opposed to her husband, had doctored the invoice. It was suggested that she may have been guilty of stupidity or naïveté in accepting his account, but that I should nevertheless accept her evidence that she simply believed what she was told by her husband. I do not accept that submission. The Claimant advanced this document in support of her claim. She denied in oral evidence that the document had been altered by either her or by her husband, and continued to insist that it was a genuine document created by Mr Appleton. Whichever of them was responsible for altering it, I find that the Claimant and her husband knew that this was a doctored document, which they nevertheless chose to adduce in an attempt to bolster the prospects of success in the claim for damages. They were both acting dishonestly in doing so.”


The judge found that the claimant had been fundamentally dishonest.  The note had been deliberately adduced to cast doubt on the credibility of the defendant’s witness.  This went to the root of the claim.
“I am satisfied that this claim is fundamentally dishonest. Whilst there is no doubt that the Claimant fell and suffered a serious injury, and whilst I am prepared to accept that she genuinely believed at the time that she had slipped on water, I am driven to conclude that her reliance on the doctored invoice to support her case was dishonesty which went to the root of the claim, and which had the potential adversely to affect the Defendant in a very significant way. I reject the contention that it was a peripheral issue which was not directly relevant to the issues in the claim. Indeed, but for Mr Appleton’s meticulous record-keeping and his industry in searching his accounting documents, there was a very real danger of the Court being misled. The credibility of key witnesses in a case where liability is disputed must go to the root of the claim. In those circumstances, I find that the claim depended as to a substantial or important part of itself upon dishonesty.”