Bodybuilder Ben Bardsley, a company director and gym owner, has been found fundamentally dishonest in relation to a fraudulent claim he made against a Warrington-based supplier of fishponds.
Mr Bardsley brought a personal injury claim against Warrington Koi & Aquatics after an accident while the company was digging a pond for his Koi carp in his back garden in Stockport. When inspecting the works on 17 July 2015, Mr Bardsley was struck by the bucket of the digger and knocked into the pond. He claimed to have fallen with his arms outstretched, causing injury to his neck and back and subsequently suffered psychological injuries.
Mr Bardsley sought to recover damages and costs in excess of £40,000. Specifically, he claimed in medical evidence that he was unable to lift weights and became anxious of heights as a result of injuries he had sustained.
Insurer Aviva, which represented the pond supplier, instructed law firm Clyde & Co to investigate the suspicious claim. The law firm uncovered a wealth of evidence that Mr Bardsley had continued to lead an extremely active life – holidaying shortly after the accident, partying, and weightlifting.
Amid a vast array of social media posts, it was shown that Mr Bardsley had continued to lift enormous weights following the accident. One such post was even published on the day he attended a medical examination for, at which it was noted that 'ongoing symptoms prevent him from performing activities that involved lifting'.
Mr Bardsley claimed he was anxious of heights but had posted on social media a video of him on a 33m-high water slide in Benidorm. The slide is known for being the world's highest capsule waterslide, yet Mr Bardsley displayed no anxiety whatsoever.
Recorder Hartley QC, sitting at Manchester County Court found Mr Bardsley had been fundamentally dishonest and noted it was 'inconceivable this type of activity [weightlifting] lived in the same world' as the restrictions described in the medical report.
With regards to Mr Bardsley's activities on the waterslide, Recorder Hartley stated the 'idea someone would undertake this would struggle with heights is nonsense'. In conclusion, Recorder Hartley QC stated that Mr Bardsley wasn't straight with the medical experts or the court 'and when faced with this he should have withdrawn his claim immediately'. Mr Bardsley was ordered to pay the costs of his claim, expected to be in excess of £14,000.
Damian Rourke, partner with law firm Clyde & Co, who acted for Aviva, said: "There should be no doubt that, had Mr Bardsley come to Court with clean hands, Aviva would have gladly paid his claim.
"It's important to understand that Aviva never sought to argue that the claimant was not injured at all. Instead, the issue was that the claimant had exaggerated both the physical and psychological effects of his injuries to the extent that the entire claim should be dismissed.
"Happily, the Court agreed and while the claimant damages were assessed at around £4,500, because he sought to claim approximately 4-to-5 times that amount, he lost everything.
"Claimants should be extremely careful and resist the temptation to pretend their injuries are more severe than they actually are. Yes, the money might seem tempting, but the ultimate price is that they lose everything and end up owing a substantial sum."
Richard Hiscocks, Director of Motor and Casualty Claims, Aviva, said: "Mr Bardsley will now feel the full weight of a fundamental dishonesty finding against him. Such a finding means that Mr Bardsley will not only lose out on compensation for the genuine part of his claim, but he is now faced with paying his own costs for bringing the action, as well as Aviva's costs for defending the exaggerated claim – expected to be more than £14,000 in all.
"We are here to pay genuine claims quickly and do. But by overstating the value and extent of his injury claim by up to 400%, Mr Bardsley sought to increase the cost of insurance for our honest customers. We have a duty to keep their costs low by challenging spurious and inflated claims, and so we are pleased the court has made clear that exaggerating an injury claim is a serious offence and is not the payday some people think it could be. The devastating financial impact of this result should deter anyone tempted to exaggerate a claim from following in Mr Bardsley's footsteps."
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