A mother-of-two accused of grossly exaggerating road crash injuries in a bid for a £210,000 damages payout has been cleared of any dishonesty by a High Court judge.
Insurers AXA engaged private detectives to tail 48-year-old Julie Rossiter in a bid to prove her a liar – but Mr Justice Stewart ruled she was anything but and that her disabilities were real.
The 48-year-old, from Falmouth, launched a compensation claim after she was injured in a March 2008 car accident.
She said it had left her prey to "unremitting, crippling disability".
However AXA, the other driver's insurer, doubted her word and instructed private eyes who covertly filmed her over a period of 15 days.
The footage showed her walking her dogs and carrying bin bags and AXA argued it "demolished" her claim.
Miss Rossiter had eventually settled her case for £30,000 – a fraction of the full amount she had sought – and AXA took the extremely rare step of accusing her of contempt of court and seeking her committal to prison.
However, Mr Justice Parker yesterday accepted her account that she had "good days and bad days" and, even when she pushed herself, was only capable of doing things on five or six days a month, ending up exhausted.
Miss Rossiter accepted it was "her fault" that she had not made it clear to doctors who examined her that her symptoms were "variable" – but the judge said that was a far cry from proof of dishonesty.
Observing that the covertly shot DVDs "never showed her doing anything particularly energetic or strenuous", the judge said: "I accept that there were times when she was unfit to leave the house and that she was taking regular medication."
AXA Insurance UK Plc, he ruled, had "fallen far short" of proving beyond reasonable doubt that Miss Rossiter had deliberately lied or tailored her evidence in a bid to boost her compensation claim.
Although Miss Rossiter should have made doctors aware that the severity of her symptoms eased now and again, the judge concluded: "I do not accept that AXA has proved beyond reasonable doubt that she made statements dishonestly."
From the High Court witness box, Miss Rossiter had earlier vehemently denied that she was in any way dishonest. "I would have said that, on average, I was able to do things for about five or six days a month, but that would exhaust me," she told the court.
Her barrister, Matthew Boyden, said she had suffered "intense mental and psychological" symptoms which may not have been detectable on medical examination or apparent from the covert footage.