Supreme Court

Hayward v Zurich Insurance Co Plc

[2016] UKSC 48; [2016] WLR (D) 423

2016 June 16; July 27

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury PSC, Baroness Hale of Richmond DPSC, Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony, Lord Reed, Lord Toulson JJSC

Contract — Rescission — Settlement of action — Employee claiming damages against employer for injury at work — Employers’ insurers suspecting that defendant exaggerating effect of injury but entering into settlement agreement on basis of inability to prove suspicions in court — — Insurers subsequently receiving proof that employee had exaggerated claim so that settlement excessive — Insurers bringing action for rescission of settlement agreement — Whether sufficient to prove materially false misrepresentation which intended to induce and inducing representee to act to his detriment — Relevance of representee’s belief as to truth of representation — Whether employee’s false representation inducing insurers to enter into settlement — Whether insurers estopped from retrieving amount overpaid under settlement agreement

Facts

In 1998 the defendant employee was injured in an accident at work and claimed damages of over £419,000 against his employers. The employers’ insurers, who were dealing with the claim, suspected that the defendant had exaggerated the extent of his injuries and carried out investigations but were unable to find evidence sufficient to prove that in court. In 2003 the insurers reached a settlement with the defendant to pay him £134,973 in full and final settlement of the claim and a Tomlin order was made to that effect. In 2005 the insurers received proof that the employee had recovered from his injuries a year before the settlement had been reached. The insurers brought proceedings for, inter alia, rescission of the settlement agreement. The defendant applied for the proceedings to be struck out or for summary judgment in his favour. The district judge refused the application but the circuit judge reversed that decision. The Court of Appeal allowed the insurers’ appeal and the claim proceeded to trial. The trial judge, having found that the defendant had exaggerated the effects of his injury, assessed the quantum of damages at £14,720 and ordered the defendant to repay the amount received under the settlement less £14,720. The Court of Appeal allowed the defendant’s appeal on the grounds, inter alia, that although the defendant had misrepresented the extent of his injuries, the insurers had not relied on that misrepresentation when they had reached the settlement agreement.

On the insurers’ appeal—

Held

Held, appeal allowed. In a claim for deceit based upon alleged misrepresentation it had to be shown that the defendant had made a materially false misrepresentation which had been intended to induce, and had induced, the representee to act to his detriment. It was not necessary as a matter of law to prove that the representee believed the misrepresentation to be true although the representee’s state of mind might be relevant to the issue of inducement. A claimant alleging deceit did not have to show that he had believed the misrepresentation and his reasonable belief as to whether the misrepresentation was true was not the test. The representee might settle the claim on the basis that he thought the misrepresentation would be believed by the judge. The fact that the insurers did not wholly believe the defendant did not preclude them from having been induced to reach a settlement by the defendant’s misrepresentations. Qualified belief or disbelief did not rule out inducement, and it was sufficient to establish that the fact of the misrepresentation had been a material cause of the defrauded representee entering into the settlement. The questions whether the insurers had been induced to enter into the settlement agreement and whether doing so had caused them loss were questions of fact which had been correctly decided in the insurers’ favour by the judge. Accordingly, the judge’s order would be restored.

Appellate History

Decision of the Court of Appeal [2015] EWCA Civ 327 reversed.

Appearances

Patrick Limb QC and Jayne Adams QC (instructed by DAC Beachcroft Claims Ltd) for the insurers.

Guy Sims (instructed by Hewitsons LLP) for the defendant.

Reported by: Shiranikha Herbert, Barrister

© 2016. The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales.