Blanket immunity for expert witnesses removed

Blanket immunity for expert witnesses removed

Thursday, 7th April 2011

The blanket immunity to professional negligence claims previously enjoyed by expert witnesses was removed by the Supreme Court's ruling in Jones v Kaney on 30 March 2011.

The court concluded that the protection granted to expert witnesses for the previous 400 years was no longer justifiable, especially since Hall v Simmons removed similar immunities from barristers.

The case had commenced in the High Court ((2010) EWHC 61 (QB)) where the trial judge had held that he was bound by earlier cases, including that of Stanton v Callaghan [1999] 2 WLR 745, which reconfirmed that expert witnesses were immune from negligence actions brought against them.

Stauton v Callaghan had held that the immunity enjoyed by expert witnesses also included joint statements made as part of proceedings. It is the latter point that the Jones v Kaney case concerned: whether the expert witness signing a joint statement which damaged her client's claim could form an actionable professional negligence claim.

Following the signing of that joint statement, the claimant who had paid for the expert witnesses' services was advised to commence proceedings against Mrs Kaney for professional negligence on the basis that her actions in signing that joint statement had caused him a loss.

The original High Court judge found in favour of the defendant, but given the importance of the issues at stake, the case then went straight to the Supreme Court from the High Court, bypassing the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court found in favour of the plaintiff.