Obtaining summary judgment to dismiss fraudulent claims – difficult but not impossible

In a recent decision, the High Court granted summary judgment dismissing a claim on the basis that the transaction relied on by the claimant was a fiction and the key documentary evidence had been fabricated. In doing so, it rejected the claimant’s argument that the defendant’s allegations of fraud and forgery could only properly be determined at trial, rather than on a summary application: Verdi Law Group P.C. v BNP Paribas S.A. and others [2023] EWHC 1860.

The judgment provides a useful illustration of the court’s approach to applications for summary judgment in cases where a defendant alleges fraud on the part of the claimant. It is not enough to demonstrate that the claimant’s version of events is inherently implausible. The court must be satisfied that there is no real prospect of the claimant establishing the key factual foundations of its claim, taking into account the possibility that a full investigation into the facts by the time of trial could add to or alter the evidence available. That is particularly the case regarding allegations of fraud, given the courts’ well-established requirement for cogent evidence to support such serious allegations.

However, the decision demonstrates that those factors do not mean that a defendant can never obtain summary judgment on an allegedly fraudulent claim.  Where there is sufficiently compelling evidence, the courts are prepared to dispose of such claims at a summary stage rather than allowing claimants to pursue the matter to trial in the hope that something may arise that could improve their case. Continue reading