St John’s Chambers win ‘Chambers of the Year 2018’

We are delighted to announce that St John’s Chambers were voted ‘Chambers of the Year 2018-2019′ at the Bristol Law Society Annual Awards Dinner on 11th October 2018. The event was held at the Marriott Hotel, Bristol and raised funds for The Freewheelers blood bikes, a registered charity supporting the NHS in South West England by providing a free emergency motorcycle courier service. The award is given to a Chambers that is able to demonstrate excellence and innovation in the provision of legal services above and beyond their colleagues in the field including CSR activities.

This award coincides with Chambers celebrating 40 years in business, and we continue to strive to be a modern and progressive set with barristers, clerks and management being the driving force behind innovative projects.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients, old and new, who have supported us and made this achievement possible.

St John’s Chambers is consistently recognised by independent awards for its expertise in a broad range of specialist areas of law. Our barristers and chambers are regular winners and shortlisted both locally and nationally.

Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers said: “St John’s Chambers is proud to receive this recognition of all we have achieved both in and out of court this year.  We look forward to continuing to serve all who need us in Bristol and the West Country.”

Photographed above from left to right is: Rachel Segal, Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence Barrister; Anita Young, Events Manager & Marketing Coordinator; Sophie Smith-Holland, Family & Divorce Barrister; Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers; Robert Bocock, Commercial & Chancery Practice Manager; Harriet Dudbridge, Family & Divorce Barrister and Annie Sampson, Commercial & Chancery Barrister.

Marcus Coates-Walker provides readers with a case summary on the recent Supreme Court appeal in the case of Darnley v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust [2018] UKSC 50

Clinical Negligence barrister, Marcus Coates-Walker provides readers with a case summary on the recent Supreme Court appeal in the case of Darnley (Appellant) v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust (Respondent) [2018] UKSC 50. This appeal considered whether non-clinically trained reception staff at an Accident and Emergency (“A&E”) Department at Mayday Hospital in Croydon owed a tortious duty of care to the appellant to provide him with accurate information regarding waiting times.

Background to the Appeal

The appellant was struck on the head on 17 May 2010 and attended the Accident and Emergency Department at Mayday Hospital, Croydon at 20:26pm.

The trial judge found that at the A&E reception, the appellant informed the receptionist that he thought he had a head injury and that he was feeling very unwell. The receptionist told the appellant that he would have to wait up to four to five hours before he could be seen by a clinician. The appellant told the receptionist he could not wait that long as he felt he was about to collapse. The usual practice when a person with a head injury asked about waiting times was either: (a) to say that patients could expect to be seen by a triage nurse within 30 minutes of arrival according to one receptionist; or (b) to say that the triage nurse would be informed and that patients would be seen as soon as possible according to a second receptionist.

The appellant left after 19 minutes because he felt too unwell to remain and went to his mother’s home. He became distressed at 21:30pm and an ambulance was called. He was taken back to Mayday Hospital and a CT scan identified a large extradural haematoma with a marked midline shift. He was transferred to St George’s Hospital and underwent an operation at 01:00am. Unfortunately, the appellant suffered permanent brain damage in the form of a severe and very disabling left hemiplegia.

The appellant brought proceedings against the respondent alleging a breach of duty by the reception staff concerning the information he was given about the time he would have to wait and the failure to assess the appellant for priority triage. The High Court dismissed the claim. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was dismissed by a majority on the grounds that: (i) neither the receptionist nor the Trust acting by the receptionist owed any duty to advise about waiting times; (ii) the damage was outside the scope of any duty owed; and (iii) there was no causal link between any breach of duty and the injury. The appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.


The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal and remitted the case to the Queen’s Bench Division for an assessment of damages. Lord Lloyd-Jones gave the sole judgment with which the other Justices agreed.

Reasons for the Judgment

Duty of care

First, the present case falls squarely within an established category of duty of care: it has long been established that such a duty is owed by those who provide and run a casualty department to persons presenting themselves complaining of illness or injury and before they are treated or received into care in the hospital’s wards. The duty is to take reasonable care not to cause physical injury to the patient. In the present case, as soon as the appellant was ‘booked in’ at reception he entered into a relationship with the respondent of patient and health care provider. The scope of this duty of care extends to a duty to take reasonable care not to provide misleading information which may foreseeably cause physical injury [16].

Secondly, the duty of care is owed by the respondent and it is not appropriate to distinguish, in this regard, between medical and non-medical staff. The respondent had charged its non-medically qualified staff with the role of being the first point of contact for persons seeking medical assistance and, as a result, with the responsibility for providing accurate information as to its availability [17].

Thirdly, the judgments of the majority in the Court of Appeal merges issues of the existence of a duty of care and negligent breach of duty. [21]

Fourthly, observations on the social cost of imposing such a duty of care are misplaced as this is not a new head of liability for NHS Trusts and, in any event, the undesirable consequences of imposing the duty in question were considerably overstated. The Court did, however, acknowledge that the very difficult circumstances under which A&E departments operate “may well prove highly influential in many cases when assessing whether there has been a negligent breach of duty” [22].

Negligent breach of duty

A receptionist in an A&E department is expected to take reasonable care not to provide misleading advice as to the availability of medical assistance. The standard required is that of an averagely competent and well-informed person performing the function of a receptionist at a department providing emergency medical care [25]. Moreover, responding to requests for information as to the usual system of operation of the A&E department is well within the area of responsibility of receptionists [26]. The two receptionists on duty were aware of the standard procedure, but the appellant was told to sit down to wait for up to four to five hours. That information was incomplete and misleading. The trial judge made the finding that it was reasonably foreseeable that a person who believes it may be four to five hours before he will be seen may decide to leave. In light of that finding, the provision of such misleading information by a receptionist as to the time within which medical assistance might be available was negligent [27].


The appellant’s decision to leave was reasonably foreseeable and was made, at least in part, on the basis of the misleading information [29]. The trial judge made further findings of fact that: (a) had the appellant been told he would be seen within 30 minutes he would have waited, been seen by a doctor and admitted; and (b) had the appellant suffered the collapse at 21:30 whilst at the Mayday Hospital, he would have undergone surgery earlier and he would have made a nearly full recovery [30]. Thus, the appellant’s departure did not break the chain of causation.

View Judgment: Darnley (Appellant) v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust (Respondent) [2018] UKSC 50

View profile: Marcus Coates-Walker

Failure to Inform Patient of Diagnosis; C v County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust [2018]

Clinical Negligence barrister, Justin Valentine, provides readers with a case note focussing on application of Montgomery to inadequate but non-defective administrative systems in the context of failure to diagnose Crohn’s Disease/failure to inform patient of diagnosis.

Justin undertakes clinical negligence work with experience of a wide variety of claims including spinal injury, nursing care, psychiatric treatment, cosmetic surgery errors, misdiagnosis/delay in diagnosis, orthopaedic injuries, incorrect prescription, negligent dental treatment, surgical injuries, catastrophic and fatal injury claims.

As an advocate and litigant Justin has considerable experience representing families at inquests, and drafting complex high value Schedules of Loss in brain, catastrophic and fatal accident claims.

To read the full article please click here.

If you would like to instruct Justin on a related matter please contact his clerks: or 0117 923 4730.


St John’s Chambers welcomes four new tenants

It is with great pleasure we announce that all four of our current pupils: Annie Sampson (commercial and chancery); Jonathan Lindfield (personal injury and clinical negligence); Sophie Smith-Holland (family & divorce) and Harriet Dudbridge (family & divorce) have become tenants at St John’s Chambers following their successful pupillage.

Annie Sampson

Annie successfully completed her specialist pupillage within the commercial and chancery practice group and is now building on that experience to develop a broad commercial and chancery practice. Annie’s experience includes commercial disputes, including applications for interim relief; partnership disputes, in particular in an agricultural context; boundary disputes; adverse possession claims; personal insolvency; the construction and validity of wills; and 1975 Act claims.

As a result of her work as a County Court advocate before commencing pupillage, Annie also has extensive experience of residential landlord and tenant and mortgage possession proceedings. This is something which Annie has continued to build on in practice, including a one-day possession trial to evict a tenant on the basis of breach of his tenancy agreement due to anti-social behavior.

Read more about Annie

“We have been very impressed by Annie’s intellect, and ability as an advocate and a lawyer.  We look forward to working with her as a valued member of the commercial and chancery team.”
Christopher Jones, Pupil Supervisor

If you would like to instruct Annie, or have any questions, please contact her clerks:

Jonathan Lindfield

Jonathan successfully completed his pupillage under the supervision of Ben Handy and Emma Zeb. During pupillage, Jonathan has specialised in all aspects of personal injury and clinical negligence work. He has a busy practice made up of both court work and paperwork, and acts regularly for both claimants and defendants. He enjoyed a busy second six, having been regularly instructed in small claim and fast-track matters, as well as on interim bases for higher-value claims. He is well-experienced in providing detailed, clear, tactically sound advice on all aspects of the litigation process, as well as a real proficiency for courtroom advocacy. Jonathan has also drafted a number of pleadings, questions to experts, as well as a range of other documents.

He is an approachable, personable advocate who has a down-to-earth approach with both lay and professional clients. Having previously volunteered in a high street solicitors’ firm, he understands the challenges faced by those instructing him and endeavours to reflect that in his attitude towards paperwork and cases in general. He is happy to accept work on a CFA basis in suitable cases.

Read more about Jonathan

“Jonathan is another excellent addition to the team. Since the day he joined St John’s he has shown an awful lot of talent, and put in a lot of hard work. He has a very bright future ahead of him.” 
Ben Handy, Pupil Supervisor

If you would like to instruct Jonathan, or have any questions, please contact his clerks:

Harriet Dudbridge

Harriet successfully completed her pupillage under the supervision of Susan Hunter. Harriet joins St John’s Chambers as a Justice First Fellow, a scheme devised by the LegalEducation Foundation for the next generation of social welfare lawyers. She is accepting instructions in the following areas: Children – Private Law & Public Law, Schedule 1 Children Act 1989, Divorce & Financial Remedies, Part IV Family Law Act 1996 (Domestic Violence) and ToLATA 1996 matters. She is regularly instructed in a variety of hearings from FHDRA’s to finding of fact and final hearings.

Harriet represents clients in FLA 1996 proceedings, obtaining non-molestation orders at contested hearings and also dealing with cross undertakings where appropriate. She has represented clients in cases involving neglect, substance misuse, immigration issues and domestic abuse. Harriet also represents applicants and respondents in financial remedy proceedings, including FDAs and FDRs, as well as accepting instructions in applications brought under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 and ToLATA 1996.

Harriet gained direct public children experience when working with volunteers in child protection where she was placed with a family with children on a child protection plan.

Read more about Harriet

“Harriet is already a skilled advocate and has developed a thriving practice during pupillage.  We are delighted to welcome her to the family team.” 
Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers

“I am delighted to join St John’s Chambers as a tenant and am very much looking forward to building my practice in all areas of family law.”
Harriet Dudbridge

If you would like to instruct Harriet, or have any questions, please contact her clerks:

Sophie Smith-Holland

Sophie successfully completed her specialist family pupillage under the supervision of Judi Evans and Andrew Commins. Sophie is building a busy practice in the following areas: Children – Private Law & Public Law, Divorce & Financial Remedies, Schedule 1 Children Act 1989, Part IV – Family Law Act 1996 (Domestic Violence) and ToLATA 1996 matters. Examples of her most recent successes at court are: obtaining an order to secure the return of a child from Scotland and proving allegations of domestic abuse, physical harm, emotional harm, sexual harassment and sexual assault after fact-finding hearings lasting several days.

Sophie worked for over 2 years in the family team of a highly respected national law firm. During this time she assisted on a variety of private and public law children matters. Consequently, she has a unique ability to view cases from the perspectives of both her professional and lay clients. She was recently awarded “highly commended” in the Bar Council’s Law Reform Essay Competition for her essay on the need for no fault divorce in England and Wales.

Read more about Sophie

“Sophie joins the department with already a considerable amount of experience in family law having worked for both a local authority and a highly regarded firm of solicitors.  Sophie’s clear and persuasive advocacy skills attracted praise from early on in her pupillage, and we have all been impressed by Sophie’s ability, and enthusiasm. We  look forward to working with her as a valued member of the team.” Judi Evans, Head of Family team, and Pupil Supervisor

“I am thrilled to have become a member of St John’s Chambers and am very much looking forward to continuing to expand my (already busy!) practice across all areas of family law.”
Sophie Smith-Holland

If you would like to instruct Sophie, or have any questions, please contact her clerks:

The latest edition of the Denton Resource incorporating the most relevant and recent cases is now available to download

Personal injury barrister Rachel Segal has updated the latest edition of the Denton Resource which charts judgments on relief from sanctions following the Court of Appeal’s decision in Denton v White [2014] EWCA Civ 906.

This resource summarises, in at-a-glance format, over 150 post-Denton cases. It will be of interest to practitioners in all fields of civil litigation dealing with applications where the three-stage Denton approach is to be applied, and is intended to help the reader decide whether to investigate the full judgment.

The resource provides a brief summary of:

  • post-Denton cases addressing relief from sanctions;
  • the relevant default;
  • the court’s approach to each of the three stages as appropriate and
  • the outcome.

Download: Denton Resource September 2018

Rachel practises in personal injury law (including clinical negligence) and accepts instructions on relief from sanctions applications and other procedural matters in other disciplines. Read more. 

If you would like to instruct Rachel on a related matter, please contact her clerks:  or call 0117 923 4730.

Robert Mills represents the Claimant awarded the highest ever damages in a dental negligence case

Clinical negligence specialist, Robert Mills has successfully represented the Claimant at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 11th June 2018, in a claim for extensive restorative treatment arising out of a wide range of negligently performed dental treatment. The Claimant was awarded the highest general damages award ever reported in a dental negligence case in the sum of £65,000.00. Total damages were again the highest reported in a dental claim and amounted to over £160,000.00.

There were four elements to general damages:

  1.  The loss of nine otherwise healthy teeth.
  2.  37 unnecessary items of dental treatment including crowns and root canal fillings.
  3. Occlusal problems such that the Claimant had only three contact points in her mouth and was unable to eat hard foods.
  4. Psychological injury in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder and specific phobia anxiety relating to dental treatment.

The Judge described the treatment provided by the Defendant dentist as “appalling”.

Robert was instructed by Katie Parr of Royds Withy King.

If you would like to instruct Robert Mills in any dental negligence matter, please contact his clerks on 0117 923 4730 or email:  

“Excellent afternoon! Very lively and interesting!” The Essential Toolkit for Junior Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence Lawyers

Earlier this week our junior personal injury and clinical negligence team ran their ‘The Essential Toolkit for Junior Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence Lawyers’ seminar for the second year running. The event, as last year, sold out in a matter of weeks so we shall be looking to run a similar event again later on this year.

Working from the delegate feedback at our previous events last year, this year saw the addition of longer parallel workshops and a “fast paced head line delivery” style first plenary session. In addition to our speakers: Marcus Coates-Walker, Ben Handy, James Marwick, Jimmy Barber, James Hughes & Robert Mills, we also welcomed our new personal injury and clinical negligence tenant, Rachel Segal, to the mix of speakers alongside our Head of Clinical Negligence, Vanessa McKinlay, who kindly chaired the event.

Talks from the day included a very popular ‘mock CCMC performance’ from Ben Handy (HHJ Handy); James Marwick (for the defendant) and James Hughes (for the claimant) which was described by delegates as a “very helpful demonstration” and “very entertaining, useful to see role play of hearing”. Other sessions included: Are the courts re-defining the scope of the duty of care in clinical negligence?; A roundup of important decisions in 2017/2018: road traffic accidents, employers’ liability and public liability; Part 35 and Part 18 questions: when and what to ask and when to answer; A roundup of important decisions in 2017/2018: clinical negligence; A workshop on fatal accident act claims and the final plenary: Part 36: tactics, pitfalls and the dark arts.

Delegates gave excellent feedback with comments such as:

  • “These sessions are great for junior lawyers & pitched at right level.”
  • “Informative day and the choice of topics were all highly relevant and useful. Great, charismatic speakers, enjoyed the day.”
  • “Very enjoyable session – well-presented and highly beneficial.”

To follow live tweets from the day search #Essentialtoolkit18 on Twitter.

If you missed this event be sure to put you name down on our waiting list for the next one by contacting Anita Young on or 0117 923 4770.

Justin Valentine provides a practical case note about shoulder dystocia in the case of G v NHS Commissioning Board

Justin Valentine, specialist personal injury and clinical negligence barrister, has published a case note about the recent case of G v NHS Commissioning Board, focussing on (i) Erb’s palsy with potentially posterior shoulder dystocia and (ii) NHS resolution approach to settlement.

Shoulder dystocia is a serious complication of delivery where one of the baby’s shoulders gets impeded usually behind the mother’s symphysis pubis. It is an obstetric emergency which must be resolved quickly. It is associated with brachial plexus injury but there is a school of thought that such injury is entirely avoidable. In this case note Justin discusses the issues raised in a recent case of probable posterior shoulder dystocia which, in the event, was compromised.

Download article: G v NHS Commissioning Board

Justin undertakes clinical negligence work with experience of a wide variety of claims including spinal injury, nursing care, psychiatric treatment, cosmetic surgery errors, misdiagnosis/delay in diagnosis, orthopaedic injuries, incorrect prescription, negligent dental treatment, surgical injuries, catastrophic and fatal injury claims.

If you would like to instruct Justin on a related matter please email his clerks on: .

St John’s Chambers congratulates Kathryn Skellorn QC & Emma Zeb on their appointment as Recorders

We are delighted to announce that our members Kathryn Skellorn QC and Emma Zeb have each been appointed to sit as a Recorder by the Judicial Office. The appointments will take effect from 4 April 2018

Kathryn and Emma have been deployed to sit on the Western Circuit.

Head of Chambers, Susan Hunter says “I am delighted to hear that Kathryn and Emma have been appointed as Recorders and I have no doubt they will show the same talent and commitment to the service of the wider public as they do in their practices.”

This year’s appointments sees a total of 133 Recorders appointed. A full list of the 2018 Recorder appointments along with their circuit allocation and deployment can be viewed by clicking here.

Kathryn Skellorn’s CV can be found here.

Emma Zeb’s CV can be found here.

Congratulations once again to both Kathryn and Emma

St John’s Chambers is presented with ‘Regional Set of the Year 2018’ award at Legal 500 UK Bar Awards

Chief Executive Derek Jenkins and Rob Bocock, Practice Manager at St John’s  Chambers attended the Legal 500 UK Bar 2018 Awards ceremony at The Royal Exchange in London on 22nd February to collect our prestigious award for ‘Regional Set of the Year’.

Derek JenkinsEach year Legal 500 carry out in-depth research across the whole of the UK legal sector to identify the best sets out there, and this award clearly recognises St John’s as a stand out national set.

Thank you to all of our referees for their on-going support, without you this achievement would not have been possible. To view the full results please click here.

Our CEO, Derek Jenkins adds, “We are delighted to have won this prestigious national award which reflects the great work St John’s has achieved and recognises Chambers’ as a leading set.”