Jones v Kaney: SC 30 Mar 2011

An expert witness admitted signing a joint report but without agreeing to it. The claimant who had lost his case now pursued her in negligence. The claimant appealed against a finding that the expert witness was immune from action.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The immunity from civil suit in negligence or contract for an expert witness as regards evidence given in the course of proceedings should no longer apply (though it continued in defamation) (Phillips, Brown, Collins, Kerr, Dyson LL majority, Hope, Hale LL dissenting).
The fundamental rule is that every wrong should have a remedy and any exception to this rule must be justified as being necessary in the public interest and kept under review. The two principle reasons for the immunity, that witnesses might be deterred from giving their true opinion or at all, and that there might be a proliferation nof vexatious claims was no longer convincing. There was no genuine conflict between the duty that the expert had to provide services to his client with reasonable skill and care, and the duty which he would owe to the court under the Rules.
Lord Collins said: ‘There are no longer any policy reasons for retaining immunity from suit for professional negligence by expert witnesses. The danger of undesirable multiplicity of proceedings has been belied by the practical experience of the removal of immunity for barristers. A conscientious expert will not be deterred by the danger of civil action by a disappointed client, any more than the same expert will be deterred from providing services to any other client. It is no more (or less) credible that an expert will be deterred from giving evidence unfavourable to the client’s interest by the threat of legal proceedings than the expert will be influenced by the hope of instructions in future cases. The practical reality is that, if the removal of immunity would have any effect at all on the process of preparation and presentation of expert evidence (which is not in any event likely), it would tend to ensure a greater degree of care in the preparation of the initial report or the joint report. ‘
Lord Kerr said: ‘Pitched against the arguments that witnesses might be influenced to distort their evidence is the fundamental consideration that breach of a duty owed by a witness to his client should, in the normal course, give rise to a remedy. Properly examined, the claimed chilling factors that would descend on expert witnesses if there was removal of the immunity are highly unlikely to materialise. In the final analysis, the only possible reason for preservation of the rule is its supposed longevity.’
Lord Dyson said: ‘The general rule that where there is a wrong there should be a remedy is a cornerstone of any system of justice. To deny a remedy to the victim of a wrong should always be regarded as exceptional. As has been frequently stated, any justification must be necessary and requires strict and cogent justification’
Lady Hale thought that if a change was to be made it should be done in an orderly fashion through the Law Commission.

Lord Phillips, President, Lord Hope, Deputy President, Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Collins, Lord Kerr, Lord Dyson
135 Con LR 1, [2011] 2 WLR 823, [2011] BLR 283, [2011] 2 AC 398, [2011] 14 EG 95, [2011] 2 All ER 671, [2011] UKSC 13, UKSC 2010/0034
Bailii, Bailii Summary, SC Summary, SC
Civil Procedure Rules 35.3
England and Wales
CitedCutler v Dixon KBD 1585
‘It was adjudged, that if one exhibits articles to justices of peace against a certain person, containing divers great abuses and misdemeanors, not only concerning the petitioners themselves, but many others, and all this to the intent that he . .
CitedRex v Skinner 1772
Lord Mansfield said: ‘Neither party, witness, counsel jury or judge can be put to answer, orally or criminally, for words spoken in office.’ Where words are spoken which are opprobrious or irrelevant to the case, the court will take notice of them . .
CitedDawkins v Lord Rokeby 1873
Police officers (among others) are immune from any action that may be brought against them on the ground that things said or done by them in the ordinary course of the proceedings were said or done falsely and maliciously and without reasonable and . .
CitedHargreaves v Bretherton 1959
The Plaintiff pleaded that the First Defendant police officer had falsely and maliciously and without justification or excuse committed perjury at the Plaintiff’s trial on charges of criminal offences and that as a result the Plaintiff had been . .
CitedWatson v M’Ewan HL 1905
A claim was brought against a medical witness in respect of statements made in preparation of a witness statement and similar statements subsequently made in court. The appellant was a doctor of medicine who had been retained by the respondent in . .
CitedMarrinan v Vibart CA 1962
The court considered an action in the form an attempt to circumvent the immunity of a witness at civil law by alleging a conspiracy.
Held: The claim was rejected. The court considered the basis of the immunity from action given to witnesses. . .
CitedMarrinan v Vibart CA 2-Jan-1962
Two police officers gave evidence in a criminal prosecution of others, that the plaintiff, a barrister, had behaved improperly by obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty and subsequently gave similar evidence at an inquiry before . .
CitedRondel v Worsley HL 1967
Need for Advocate’s Immunity from Negligence
The appellant had obtained the services of the respondent barrister to defend him on a dock brief, and alleged that the respondent had been negligent in the conduct of his defence.
Held: The House considered the immunity from suit of . .
CitedMedcalf v Mardell, Weatherill and Another HL 27-Jun-2002
The appellants were barristers against whom wasted costs orders had been made. They appealed. They had made allegations of fraud in pleadings, but without being able to provide evidence to support the allegation. This was itself a breach of the Bar . .
CitedDarker v Chief Constable of The West Midlands Police HL 1-Aug-2000
The plaintiffs had been indicted on counts alleging conspiracy to import drugs and conspiracy to forge traveller’s cheques. During the criminal trial it emerged that there had been such inadequate disclosure by the police that the proceedings were . .
CitedArthur JS Hall and Co (A Firm) v Simons; Barratt v Woolf Seddon (A Firm); Harris v Schofield Roberts and Hill (A Firm) HL 20-Jul-2000
Clients sued their solicitors for negligence. The solicitors responded by claiming that, when acting as advocates, they had the same immunities granted to barristers.
Held: The immunity from suit for negligence enjoyed by advocates acting in . .
CitedRoy v Prior HL 1970
The court considered an alleged tort of maliciously procuring an arrest. The plaintiff had been arrested under a bench warrant issued as a result of evidence given by the defendant. He sued the defendant for damages for malicious arrest.
Held: . .
CitedSaif Ali v Sydney Mitchell and Co (a Firm) HL 1978
Extent of Counsel’s Immunity in Negligence
The House considered the extent of a barrister’s immunity from action in negligence, and particularly whether it covered pre-trial acts or omissions in connection with civil proceedings.
Held: A barrister’s immunity from suit extended only to . .
CitedStanton and Another v Callaghan and Others CA 8-Jul-1998
The defendant, a structural engineer, was retained by the plaintiffs in a claim against insurers for the costs of remedying subsidence of the plaintiffs’ house. He advised total underpinning for pounds 77,000, but later while preparing a joint . .
CitedHedley Byrne and Co Ltd v Heller and Partners Ltd HL 28-May-1963
Banker’s Liability for Negligent Reference
The appellants were advertising agents. They were liable themselves for advertising space taken for a client, and had sought a financial reference from the defendant bankers to the client. The reference was negligent, but the bankers denied any . .
CitedReynolds v Kingston (Police Services Board) 14-Mar-2007
(Court of Appeal for Ontario ) Immunity from suit in negligence for witness evidence. . .
CitedEvans v London Hospital Medical College and Others 1981
The defendants employed by the first defendant carried out a post mortem on the plaintiff’s infant son. They found concentrations of morphine and told the police. The plaintiff was charged with the murder of her son. After further investigation no . .
CitedPalmer v Durnford Ford QBD 1992
The plaintiff had consented to judgment for his opponent in a case against both the supplier and a repairer of a lorry tractor unit. They subsequently sued an engineering expert on the ground that his incompetent report had led them to advance . .
CitedGeneral Medical Council v Professor Sir Roy Meadow, Attorney General CA 26-Oct-2006
The GMC appealed against the dismissal of its proceedings for professional misconduct against the respondent doctor, whose expert evidence to a criminal court was the subject of complaint. The doctor said that the evidence given by him was . .
CitedX (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council; M (A Minor) and Another v Newham London Borough Council; Etc HL 29-Jun-1995
Liability in Damages on Statute Breach to be Clear
Damages were to be awarded against a Local Authority for breach of statutory duty in a care case only if the statute was clear that damages were capable of being awarded. in the ordinary case a breach of statutory duty does not, by itself, give rise . .
CitedChamberlains v Lai 11-Sep-2006
NZLII Supreme Court of New Zealand) [1] Access to the courts for vindication of legal right is part of the rule of law. Immunity from legal suit where there is otherwise a cause of action is exceptional. Immunity . .
CitedD’Orta-Ekenaike v Victoria Legal Aid 10-Mar-2005
(High Court of Australia) Legal practitioners – Negligence – Immunity from suit – Applicant sought legal assistance from first respondent, a statutory corporation deemed to be a firm of solicitors, in defence of criminal prosecution – First . .
Appeal fromJones v Kaney QBD 21-Jan-2010
The claimant sought damages in negligence against the defendant who had signed a joint expert witness report, but later admitted not approving its contents which led to the claimant losing his action. . .

Cited by:
CitedSingh v Moorlands Primary School and Another CA 25-Jul-2013
The claimant was a non-white head teacher, alleging that her school governors and local authority had undermined and had ‘deliberately endorsed a targeted campaign of discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation’ against her as an Asian . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Professional Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.431373