Court of Appeal finds in favour of Accident Exchange for a second time in Autofocus fraud test cases
04 Feb, 2013
The Court of Appeal today (4th February 2013) handed down judgment in favour of Accident Exchange in four test cases involving fraudulent evidence employed by insurers in replacement vehicle hire rate disputes. This follows an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal in December 2011 which resulted in twenty-seven insurers reaching compromise agreements with Accident Exchange in claims totaling over £12million.
The current cases involving the now discredited expert witness Autofocus, were heard in November 2012 following the refusal of AXA, Zurich, HSBC, Brit, AIG (Chartis), Equity and others to accept that the evidence deployed by them in thousands of court cases was “riddled with dishonesty”.
Autofocus was routinely engaged by insurers and solicitors to rebut the legitimate claims made by credit hire companies on behalf of the innocent victims of road accidents. A number of its former employees and directors are the subject of an investigation by the City of London Police.
The unanimous decision of the Court coincides with Accident Exchange’s pursuit of an “Unlawful Means Conspiracy” claim against a number of companies professionally involved in the litigation process who were complicit in the industrial scale deployment of fraudulent Autofocus evidence.
Forensic accountants estimate the corporate and financial damage arising from this conspiracy against Accident Exchange to be in excess of £130 million.
In today’s Court of Appeal judgment, Lord Justice Aikens, confirmed*1 that Autofocus staff had fabricated historic basic hire rates and witness evidence presented by witnesses employed by the Company was “routinely altered by other employees.”
Although the Court could not deal with the allegations relating to the knowledge of AXA or their representative solicitors, Morgan Cole, Lord Justice Aitkens said the ‘fresh evidence’ presented by Accident Exchange was ‘entirely credible’.
He drew particular reference to correspondence between Autofocus and Neil Forsyth, a partner at Morgan Cole, in March 2005 in which Mr. Forsyth was made aware that Autofocus had omitted more expensive hire rates from their evidence, thus making reports seem more favourable for insurers.
Today’s verdict by the Court of Appeal means the decisions in the original trials could not stand and that the cases should now be retried. Almost 200 other appeals have been stayed in the lower courts pending this judgment being handed down.
Speaking after the judgment was handed down, Accident Exchange Chief Executive, Steve Evans (pictured), said: “We first raised our concerns to the market in general, and to, AXA, in particular in September 2009. It’s been a long and expensive four years of painstaking investigation to expose and prosecute this fraud. I personally reviewed almost 900,000 e-mails and other documents from the computer records of Autofocus. The significant volume of evidence presented to the Court showed overwhelmingly the deceit brought on the judicial process in literally thousands of cases. I only hope those insurers who have sat on their hands for the last four years will now accept that the game is up and its time to do the right thing.
“With regard to AXA, an organisation that claims to be ‘redefining standards’, I’m not holding my breath. David Williams, a Director at AXA told Post magazine a year or so ago said that ‘to stop using Autofocus on the word of a gentleman, who we had more hire charge litigation with than any others, would be wrong.’ It was me he was referring to and it turns out that I was very right about Autofocus and AXA were very, very wrong!”
Accident Exchange has instructed its legal team to draft proceedings against those professionally involved in the litigation process against whom there is clear evidence that they were complicit in the deployment of dishonest Autofocus evidence.