In early 2017, I decided to retire as Head of Chambers. There were two principal reasons for this. First, I felt that I had taken Chambers as far as I possibly could in the previous seven years of my headship and that new ideas and fresh approaches should be given every chance to flourish. Second, I had found the combined effect of running a full-time practice and running chambers increasingly onerous. In addition, I had accepted the offer to become Professor of Law at Birmingham University in April, 2016 and had become increasingly involved in a number of projects there including my agreement to participate in an international bio-ethics conference in Cyprus.
So, in March 2017 I found I had a little more time to devote to full-time practice. It is just as well. I was able to devote considerable time and effort to two major trauma cases which were each heading for trial – one involving a catastrophic collision between two personal watercraft (jet skis) off the coast of Wales and the other a highly unusual case involving incomplete tetraplegia suffered by a young lady after riding on a wooden roller coaster at a well-known theme park. Both concluded satisfactorily.
At the same time, I continued to prepare many of my clinical negligence cases for consultations, settlement meetings and trial. I have been dealing with a raft of missed sub-arachnoid haemorrhage cases, mostly involving the misdiagnosis of the cause of a first series of acute symptoms leading to discharge but soon followed by a second catastrophic event which in some cases killed the patient and in most cases left the claimant with profound and significant disability. Two of these cases were settled in the first quarter of 2017. Several others are ongoing. Two are listed for trial in the next couple of months either in respect of causation and damages or in respect of damages only.
I have also continued with my regulatory work. In the last couple of weeks I concluded a hearing in the British Psychoanalysis Council on behalf of a practitioner accused of an historic (consensual) heterosexual relationship with a patient over a ten year period and now turn my attention to a fine of £3 million imposed on an insolvency practitioner accused of failing to disclose information in respect of commission payments arising from IVAs.
I have also been able to devote some time to a case involving a military exercise in Africa which led to the fall of a participant from a summit at Mount Kenya and the suffering of severe injury. The lay and expert witness evidence is in the process of being obtained.
In the last few weeks I was also able to bring to a conclusion a case which has been running for seven years involving the negligent loss of a load of many tons of timber planks from a flatbed lorry and their collision with an oncoming vehicle in which the claimant driver suffered horrendous injury. The case had fought to trial on an aspect of liability and ultimately settled at a very significant level of damages soon before trial.
All that has happened whilst dealing with the fallout from the discount rate change and the massive uncertainty that has been generated. I have advised further in at least a dozen extant cases on issues of PPO v capital provision, appropriate multipliers based on -0.75% DR and, above all, the thorny and, as yet, unresolved issue of where now for Roberts v Johnstone and housing claims generally.
I am very pleased that Nigel has taken over from me and wish him every good fortune as Head of Chambers. I am also very pleased to be able to now concentrate full time on my practice.
Winckworth Sherwood in conversation with Kings Chambers
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