The Supreme Court has, in a recent decision, abolished the 400 year old principle whereby experts in legal proceedings have benefited from immunity from action being taken against them for breach of duty arising out of their participation in those proceedings.
The case before the Supreme Court that led to this decision stemmed from a claim for personal injury arising out of a road traffic accident that took place sometime in 2001, in which the Claimant suffered physical and psychological injuries.
During the course of the legal proceedings, the Solicitors instructed by the Claimant instructed a Clinical Psychologist to prepare a report on the psychological aspects of the Claimant’s injuries. The medical report came back confirming a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The Defendants obtained their own medical evidence, having instructed a Consultant Psychiatrist who reported the view that the Claimant had exaggerated his symptoms. It was ordered that both experts prepare a Joint Statement on issues upon which they both agreed and those upon which they disagreed.
It is the Clinical Psychologists (instructed by the Claimant in the initial legal proceedings) participation in the preparation of the joint statement between the two experts that led to the matter coming before The Supreme Court in proceedings against her for negligence.
The case against her was that she had signed a Joint Statement to the Court wrongly stating that she agreed with the Defendant’s medical expert that the Claimant had not suffered from PTSD and that she believed the Claimant had not been honest in the reporting of the symptoms suffered.
As a result of the Joint Statement signed by both experts the Claimant had no option but to settle for a sum considerably lower than he might have otherwise recovered.
Initially the Clinical Psychologist had attempted to rely on previous case law which held that an expert witness could not be sued in relation to work carried out in legal proceedings. She tried to have the claim struck out and thus the matter came before the Supreme Court for a decision to me made in respect of experts immunity. By a majority verdict the Supreme Court held that the long held experts’ immunity be abolished.
This means that experts, including medical experts in personal injury cases, will now need to be much more aware of the duties they owe to the Court in order to minimise their exposure to risk of legal action being taken against them.
For more details of how HilliersHRW Solicitors could help you with your claim, please contact Julie McCallion or Selina Martin in the Kempston office on 01234 858000.