Home Financial News AXA blows another £110,000 in costs to concede three more Autofocus retrials...

AXA blows another £110,000 in costs to concede three more Autofocus retrials but makes an offer to end the dispute

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• Further compensation for hire charges of £10,720.74 agreed (Wintripp v AXA Insurance), £1,558.75 (Wood v Wiedenhoft) and £125 (Collick v Rohodes)
• Incurred appeal costs are estimated by Accident Exchange at £50,000 (Wintripp v AXA Insurance), £30,000 (Wood v Wiedenhoft) and £30,000 (Collick v Rohodes)
• AXA makes global settlement proposal
• Further Court of Appeal guidance on a number of cases imminent

AXA has conceded three further cases where retrials were ordered in respect of claims which were originally contaminated with, and then decided on the basis of, dishonest Autofocus evidence.

The three settlements highlight what Accident Exchange says is the manifest failure of the AXA strategy when, in the case of Collick and Rhodes, for example, an incremental payment of just £125 has cost the insurance giant an estimated £30,000 in legal costs.

The two other compromised cases (Wood v Widenhoft and Wintripp v AXA insurance) resulted in further damages being paid to Accident Exchange of £12,280 plus interest but transferred to AXA an estimated liability of £80,000 in costs for the two cases.

Following these developments, Accident Exchange confirmed that AXA has now tabled a revised global settlement proposal at a figure which matches an offer made by Accident Exchange to AXA, and declined by them, almost a year ago.

In what Accident Exchange describes as ‘an unattractive piece of drafting’, AXA’s settlement offer appears to seek to protect Morgan Cole, its former Solicitors, from any action or claim arising from its involvement in the deployment of the fraudulent Autofocus evidence.

Morgan Cole was named by Accident Exchange during the Court of Appeal test cases a year or so ago and was also criticised by Accident Exchange in a recent case in the Chester County Court where summary judgment was given. In that case, evidence was presented to the Court showing that Morgan Cole was aware that the Autofocus evidence that it served the first time around was dishonest.

Steve Evans, Chief Executive of Accident Exchange, commented:

“Why AXA would want to protect a firm of solicitors when it knows that firm has deployed evidence on its behalf knowing it to be dishonest and that the evidence was likely to, and in many cases did, deceive the Court, is beyond me. On the plus side, it appears that AXA has at last recognised that the rates evidence from SG Consultancy and Ravenstone on which it is currently relying has more holes in it than our local golf course. It’s a shame it has taken so long and cost several million pounds in legal costs for the penny to drop.”

He continued:

“AXA may now recognise that the reason Autofocus made its evidence up was because it had no alternative; there was no evidence of comparable hire rates that supported AXA’s opposition to thousands of valid hire claims then. Moreover, there is no credible evidence that it has found now, having had five or six years to find it!”

In a press release issued by AXA announcing that it has tabled its global settlement proposal, the company says that it has made the offer because ‘the burden of evidence in credit hire cases is stacked in favour of credit hire companies.’

Evans responded:

“Let’s be absolutely clear on this.”

“AXA could have paid these claims at discounted GTA rates many years ago but chose not to do so. It decided to embark on a litigation strategy, supported by fabricated and dishonest evidence from Autofocus, which deceived the Courts in thousands of cases. It had no criticism then of the evidential burden it had to meet to defeat a hire claim. Now, having been given a second chance to produce new and honest evidence, AXA has clearly failed and criticising the evidential burden it cannot now properly meet sounds like sour grapes.”

A number of Autofocus appeals involving AXA, Zurich and LV are still awaiting directions in the Court of Appeal where Lord Justice Aiken has indicated that he may give further guidance for their disposal in the next week or so.