We use cookies to improve our site and your experience. By continuing to browse on this website you accept the use of cookies. Read more...

Experts: Jones v Kaney [2011] UKSC 13

The Supreme Court abolished immunity from suit in negligence of expert witnesses in relation to their participation in legal proceedings.

The Claimant brought a claim for personal injury against F. His solicitors instructed the Defendant, a clinical psychologist, to prepare a medical report. The Defendant subsequently signed a joint statement with F's medical expert which was highly damaging to the Claimant's case. As a result, the Claimant settled the claim for substantially less than he might otherwise have obtained.

The Claimant brought a claim in negligence against the Defendant. The Defendant did not dispute that her actions had been negligent but sought to rely on her immunity from suit as an expert witness as established by the Court of Appeal in Stanton v Callaghan [2000] QB 75. The High Court Judge found himself bound by that decision and struck out the claim.

The Claimant's appeal against that order came directly to the Supreme Court, as a point of general public importance, pursuant to s. 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1969.

The Supreme Court held (Lord Hope and Lady Hale dissenting) that the immunity from suit of expert witnesses in litigation should be abolished. The decision does not affect the absolute privilege that they enjoy in respect of claims in defamation [62].

Lord Phillips (with whose reasoning Lords Collins and Kerr agreed) stated that it was not right to start with a presumption that because the immunity existed it should be retained. Rather the onus lay on the Defendant to justify the immunity behind which she sought to shelter.

The Defendant's main justifications for retaining the immunity were that it was necessary to ensure that expert witnesses would be prepared to give evidence and that such witnesses would be reluctant to give evidence contrary to their client's cases if there was a risk they could be sued.

The majority of their Lordships were unconvinced; particularly since the abolition of barristers' immunity by the House of Lords in Arthur J S Hall & Co v Simons [2002] 1 AC 615 did not appear to have had any noticeable detrimental effect. In the absence of any justification for retaining the immunity, it would be abolished. The appeal was therefore allowed.

Winston Jacob / 1st May 2011


The information and any commentary on the law contained on this web site is provided free of charge for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information and commentary accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by any member of Chambers. The information and commentary does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about your case or matter and not to rely on the information or comments on this site. No responsibility is accepted for the content or accuracy of linked sites.

Download as PDF

Back to News


Get In Touch

If you like what you've read but want to know more about how we can help you, simply call us:

020 7797 8300

Alternatively you can  send us an email and a member of our team will contact you as soon as possible.