On 19 September 2023, Stewarts hosted an Expert Witness Training Day chaired by William Audland KC of 12 King’s Bench Walk (12KBW).
This training day was aimed at both aspiring medico-legal experts and those already providing medico-legal reports. The event provided insights into medico-legal work for those considering becoming experts, and was an opportunity for more seasoned experts to hear from the personal experiences of barristers, lawyers and experts being in the witness box and providing evidence to the court.
Our speakers covered what it is like to be cross-examined in a courtroom as well as issues relevant to all medico-legal experts, including updates on capacity and consent.
William Audland KC, the event chair, kicked off with a run through of the duties and obligations of an expert, highlighting the importance of the provisions under CPR Part 35. William is head of chambers at 12KBW and is known to have an impressively broad practice that includes catastrophic, brain and spinal injuries in addition to sports law and cross-border claims. He impressed upon the audience the importance of experts being well versed in the provisions of Part 35 and for experts to remember their primary duty is to the court.
Ian Gatt KC, partner and qualified barrister in the Commercial Litigation team at Stewarts, then led a session on ‘the cross examiner at court’. Ian reminded the audience about never becoming an advocate for whichever side has instructed you, and regaled a number of cross-examination horror stories where experts’ evidence had been undermined due to lack of preparation, lack of expertise or stepping outside their field of expertise.
Neurosurgeon and medico-legal expert Nick Todd ran a highly informative session on the current literature and evidence base for the classifications of cauda equina syndrome, and how a low reliability of classification often makes comparator studies difficult and causation arguments open to a range of opinions. Nick’s talk sparked debate throughout the room about how and when a diagnosis of cauda equina can be made, and when surgery should still be considered where the imaging does not meet criteria for cauda equina as established by earlier studies.
Vanessa Cashman, barrister at 12KBW, then took us through a whistlestop explainer of consent. Vanessa predominantly acts for claimants in a wide range of clinical negligence cases and is regularly instructed in high-value obstetric and birth injury claims. She took us through mainstay cases such as Montgomery and others all the way through to more recent cases such as Crossman, CNZ, Bilal and McCulloch.
Finally, we were treated to an incredibly interesting talk from Chris Danbury, a Consultant Intensive Care Physician at the University Hospital Southampton. He spoke about capacity, making decisions and his personal experience of being an expert in the Court of Protection. He provided a hugely informative and humble insight into one of the first appearances he made in court as a medico-legal expert, and how giving evidence in the Court of Appeal has provided him with an opportunity to learn from previous experiences.
Chris spoke candidly about some of the most difficult decisions to make in cases where there is a dispute about the will and preferences of a patient who lacks capacity. He also discussed the case of Cambridge v AH, where a hospital trust sought a declaration that it was no longer in AH’s best interests to receive ventilatory support and treatment.
The day was rounded off with drinks, canapes and a chance for the speakers and audience members to chat and answers questions about the issues they had heard.
All training materials from the day can be found here.
A special thanks to our speakers Ian Gatt, Nick Todd, Vanessa Cashman and Chris Danbury, and to event chair William Audland KC.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Clinical Negligence pages.
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