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Claimant who sued over pothole injury given suspended sentence after evidence of extreme sports participation

Walsall Council has successfully prosecuted a man who falsely claimed significant compensation following an injury when falling in a pothole.

The local authority said the personal injury claim brought by Nicholas McDaid of Bloxwich, Walsall, could have cost it more than £200,000 in damages and legal costs.

At a hearing in the High Court in Birmingham Her Honour Judge Stacey sentenced McDaid, who had admitted his guilt, to two months in prison suspended for 12 months for contempt of court. He was also ordered to pay the council’s prosecution costs.

McDaid, 35, had originally brought a claim against the council in 2013 when he alleged that he had suffered a serious ankle injury caused by a pothole trip whilst walking his dogs. He also claimed that the ligament and soft tissue damage to his ankle was so severe he was unable to work.

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However, following investigations by the council and its lawyers Browne Jacobson, evidence surfaced of him engaged in extreme sporting activities during the time when he claimed to have been unable to do so.

Pictures and evidence were provided to the Court which showed him competing in ’Iron Man’ triathlons, full and half marathons, cycling challenges and scoring tries for his local rugby club. Some of these athletic activities were uploaded to a personal fitness app.

Walsall had initially paid McDaid an interim payment of around £12,000 for an ankle operation, but it was not until its medical expert reviewed his medical records that the dishonesty came to light, the council said.

It added that McDaid had made exaggerated claims for ‘loss of earnings’, and “care” by his wife and lied to the medical experts about his fitness and sporting activities before trial in 2018, five years after the incident.

The personal injury claim was dismissed by Her Honour Judge Truman in May 2018 depriving McDaid of his genuine damages when he was found to be “fundamentally dishonest”.

McDaid then unsuccessfully appealed this decision, arguing that despite the fact that he was ‘dishonest’, he had not been fundamentally dishonest. This was rejected by Mr Justice Martin Spencer in Birmingham County Court.

Walsall then pursued a private prosecution for contempt of court leading to his criminal conviction. This ruling was upheld on 17 December 2019.

In mitigation McDaid was described as a valued employee and devoted father and the judge ruled that a custodial sentence would have impacted negatively on his family.

Leader of Walsall Council Cllr Mike Bird said: “Anybody who tries to claim money from Walsall taxpayers by giving a dishonest and exaggerated account of their injuries will see their day in Court.  It is wrong – pure and simple. It also takes money from the public purse and away from important services in Walsall.”

Paul Wainwright, partner and head of counter fraud services at Browne Jacobson, said: “Given the council’s concerns which were raised by its expert, it was right that a full and thorough investigation was carried out. Those investigations revealed extensive sporting activity which McDaid had dishonestly failed to evidence before the Court giving a false and misleading impression of the effect of his injury for financial gain. Had he succeeded in his claim, valuable resources would have been unavailable for the council’s frontline services.”

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