A high court judge has upheld a ruling to dismiss a 62-year-old’s damages claim after he attempted to falsely sue a theme park for £1.5m.
Richard Walkden said he was left “crippled” and “unable to bend his back” following a cable car accident at Drayton Manor in 2014, but images have since emerged of him enjoying a white water rafting excursion in South Africa.
In the pictures, thought to have been taken just eight months after the incident, Mr Walkden can be seen on a raft with members of his family, about to set off down the rapids of the Crocodile River, near Pretoria, kitted out with a buoyancy aid and helmet.
The former managing director of green energy firm Eartheat Ltd, in Leicester, now faces a £200,000 legal bill after Mrs Justice Tipples’ ruling.
In the accident, which took place around Easter seven years ago, an operator set off a cable car containing Mr Walkden and his family too quickly, leaving the father injured after he claimed to have been forced into an awkward position trying to protect his young sons.
Having seen the pictures of Mr Walkden rafting, though, Justice Tipples said the county court trial judge was entitled to find his claim dishonest and that he had exaggerated his injuries.
Drayton Manor Park Ltd previously accepted liability for the accident, but disputed the sum of Mr Walkden’s £1.5m claim.
Mr Walkden had told the court his injuries left him with “chronic pain” but during a hearing last March, Justice Murdoch rubbished this claim.
“I do not accept that he did not do the entire trip, he is kitted up to do it, his children are in the picture and yet none of them in their evidence says that he did not do the entire trip,” the judge said at the time.
“If I were wrong with that analysis, I would find that in any event he was still required to paddle even on flat water and that would have been a hard, physical activity. The raft would need to be ported in and out of the water which again would be hard physical activity.”
He added: “His evidence was not in my judgment credible or reliable on this issue.”
Challenging the finding at the High Court this week, Mr Walkden's barrister Satinder Hunjan QC argued that the judge had not properly taken account of all of the evidence in Mr Walkden’s favour.
Witnesses explained how Mr Walkden was forced to give up his hobbies of cycling and beekeeping as a direct result of the freak accident. But rejecting the appeal and upholding her colleague’s dishonesty finding, Justice Tipples said Judge Murdoch had not ignored or failed to take into account evidence.
“The judge had a wealth of evidence before him on these issues from lay witnesses, medical experts, contemporaneous documents and so on,” she told the court.
“The judge devotes most of his judgment to summarising, and analysing all this evidence which was placed before him in relation to these issues. He does so, in my view, succinctly and with considerable care and, as a result, he found that the appellant was not a credible witness, and had exaggerated his injuries.”
She concluded: “It was in that context that the judge rejected the appellant’s case that he was suffering from a chronic pain syndrome. The appellant did not suffer a life-changing injury as a result of the accident which meant he was unable to work.
“There was ample evidence before the judge on which to reach this conclusion, and it is not a finding of fact which cannot be reasonably explained or justified.”
Justice Tipples also announced that despite her finding Mr Walkden was in fact entitled to £17,600 compensation – just over one per cent of his original dues – she was going to dismiss the businessman’s claim altogether due to his “fundamentally dishonest behaviour”.
Mr Walkden now has to pick up the bill for Drayton Manor’s legal costs - £200,000 up front, pending a full assessment on the final balance.
Anthony Bushell, of Plexus Law, the firm that took the case against Mr Walkden, said: “A forensic investigation of the case and detailed analysis of the medical records, combined with social media profiling, covert surveillance and instruction of highly experienced medical experts meant we were able to evidence to the court that the claimant was bringing a hugely exaggerated and fundamentally dishonest claim.
“This resulted in the claimant receiving nothing other than an order to pay the costs of the entire action.”
Lawyers added the bills could further increase to the sum of “several hundred thousand pounds”.
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