A Supreme Court case which began as a simple road traffic accident claim has ended in a landmark ruling, one which overturns 400-year-old protections and effectively removes immunity from expert witnesses in court cases.
The ruling came about after a Dr Sue Kaney was called as an expert witness in a personal injury case following a road traffic accident, in relation to whether or not appellant Paul Wynne Jones was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr Kaney originally supported Jones in his claim, then switched sides to support the defendant.
After receiving what he believed to be a significantly lower settlement sum than his symptoms merited, Jones filed a professional negligence lawsuit against Dr Kaney for allegedly damaging his case.
Dr Kaney pled immunity from the lawsuit as an expert witness, in accordance with a centuries-old rule designed to encourage expert witnesses to give truthful evidence without having to worry about being sued. The case was struck out in the High Court due to this rule, but Mr Jones appeal has now been upheld in the Supreme Court.
All of this could have significant implications for those likely to appear as expert witnesses in court cases, such as doctors, psychologists and other technical or scientific authorities.
To assure peace of mind and legal protection whilst giving fair and truthful evidence in court, these individuals should make getting professional indemnity insurance for expert witnesses a priority.