In a stern warning to those tempted to over-egg accident injuries in the dishonest pursuit of compensation, a mother of 13 who did just that in a bid to win £750,000 damages from a housing organisation is facing a prison sentence for her contempt of court.
Lawyers representing Homes for Haringey argued that 59-year-old Barbara Fari had lied about how badly she was hurt when she tripped on uneven paving and twisted her right knee. The organisation, which manages council housing in the borough, admitted liability and offered Mrs Fari £7,500 in settlement of her claim.
But she persisted in seeking a much larger award and her claim was ultimately struck out by a judge after covertly-shot video evidence revealed a striking difference between how she presented during medical examinations and when she was out and about near her home.
Finding Mrs Fari and her husband, Piper, in contempt following a High Court hearing, Mr Justice Spencer adjourned sentencing but warned that she was likely to be sent to prison unless he was persuaded otherwise by character references or further medical evidence.
Mrs Fari claimed that the fall had aggravated her pre-existing arthritis to the point where she was no longer able to look after her large family and instead relied on their care. The couple denied contempt and Mrs Fari, who is illiterate, said that she had relied on legal advice and simply signed documents which had not been explained to her properly.
She claimed medical experts had misinterpreted what she had told them and that the compensation offer of £7,500 would have suited her. However, the judge found that she had presented a ‘grossly false’ picture of her continuing symptoms to doctors and in legal documents and that her husband had been complicit in the charade.
The judge said: “Although Mrs Fari comes across superficially as a vulnerable and needy woman, I am quite sure she is a strong and domineering character. Although lacking formal literacy skills, she is nobody's fool. I am sure she is quite capable of playing on her educational weaknesses when she thinks it suits her.'' Mr Fari was by far the less dominant partner in the marriage but he had ‘foolishly gone along’ with his wife’s dishonesty.
Noting that the surveillance evidence was the key to arriving at the truth, the judge said that, even making allowances for someone with existing arthritis having good and bad days, it was impossible to reconcile the apparently sprightly Mrs Fari depicted in the videos with the badly disabled woman who attended medico-legal examinations.