Matthew White


Mathew-White

Call 1997 (Gray’s Inn)
Appointments Junior Counsel to the Crown (since 2002 and ongoing)
Qualifications MA (Oxon)
Professional Memberships Personal Injury Bar Association; Employment Law Bar Association

Expertise


Matthew has significant experience of low velocity impact road traffic claims, and is used to dealing with the expert medical and engineering evidence often obtained in such cases. He also has experience of phantom passenger claims and allegations of exaggeration.

Matthew has experience in a variety of construction and engineering matters. He acts for both builders and property owners in disputes concerning either failure to pay or alleged defective work. Examples of his experience in specialist issues and subject matter are as follows:

  • Buried cables
  • New Roads and Street Works Act
  • Gas (Street Works) (Compensation of Small Businesses) Regulations 1996
  • Thermal insulation
  • Defective works and other contractual disputes
  • Surveyors’ negligence
  • Defective design
  • Defective construction
  • Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996

Matthew deals with claims on a quantum merit, Ruxley damages, JCT contracts and claims for distress and inconvenience. He aims to limit his construction practice to County and High Court work.

Matthew has been head of the St John’s Chambers Employment Law Practice Group 2007.

He was appointed to the Provincial Panel of Junior Counsel to the Crown in 2002 and has subsequently undertaken a volume of respondent employment tribunal work for public bodies.

Matthew’s expertise covers all types of employment law including tribunal and internal disciplinary, grievance and procedural work. He regularly accepts instructions from both employers and employees. His unfair/wrongful dismissal and restrictive covenant practice is claimant biased (c.75% claimant work, typically managers and highly paid employees) whereas his discrimination practice is respondent biased (c.75% respondent).

Matthew undertakes direct public access work, generally for respondent employers. He also advises employees on the effect of compromise agreements reached with employers (such advice being necessary for the employer to be able to enforce the agreement, and the employer usually pays for the advice).

Example cases/issues dealt with

  • Claim for ex-employee in negligent misstatement arising out of provision of information (but not a reference) to a new employer resulting in dismissal. McKie v Swindon College [2011] EWHC 469 (QB). For a discussion on the case, please see here.
  • Unfair and wrongful dismissal claims for managing directors (with Employment Tribunal and County Court parts to the claims).
  • Injunctions/ restrictive covenants/ restraint of trade.
  • Five-day race discrimination claim in which a black man claimed to have been discriminated against by his colleagues using racist names.
  • Five-day race discrimination claim in which a black man claimed to have been discriminated against following his unsuccessful application for appointment as a magistrate.
  • Two-day unfair dismissal claim following claimant being found drunk and disorderly out of work and out of working hours.
  • Five-day age discrimination claim.
  • Three-day disability discrimination (deafness) claim.
  • Three-day pregnancy related sex discrimination/ unfair dismissal claim.
  • Unfair dismissal claim following viewing of pornography on the internet.
  • Equal Pay Act claims.
  • National Minimum Wage and Agricultural Wages legislation.
  • Working Time Regulations claims.
  • The law concerning the taxation of Tribunal awards.
  • Discrete costs applications (including a costs award of over £28,000 made in favour of Matthew’s clients).
  • County Court claims involving harassment and stress (Majrowski, the Protection from Harassment Act and common law negligence).
  • Employment Tribunal/ County Court jurisdictional issues.
  • As an off-shoot of employment work Matthew has had cause to deal with hearings in the Reserve Forces Appeal Tribunal and Civil Penalty Notices under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006.

Matthew practises in personal injury litigation and is happy to advise claimants and defendants on cross-over issues in appropriate claims (including choice of jurisdiction and abuse of process arguments).

Recommendations

  • “Matthew gives clear and concise advice to clients.” Legal 500, Employment (2016)
  • “Matthew largely focuses on representing employer respondents such as large companies and government entities. He is experienced in handling a diverse range of matters including a significant number of discrimination claims.” Chambers UK, Employment (2016)
  • “Matthew’s practice covers areas such as discrimination, restrictive covenants and unfair / wrongful dismissal.” Legal 500, Employment (2015)

Matthew regularly undertakes work across the spectrum of occupational illness litigation, particularly asbestos related conditions, work related upper limb disorders, and noise-induced hearing loss. Recent example cases include:-

  • Percy Leonard McDonald v (1) Department for Communities and Local Government; and (2) National Grid Electricity Transmission PLC [2013] EWCA Civ 1346.
  • Acoustic shock claims (including a call-centre and military equipment).
  • An unusual WRULD claim in which a claimant claimed to have sustained carpal tunnel syndrome (rather than the usual vibration white finger) through exposure to vibrations.
  • Routine claims concerning asbestos related conditions. Liability is typically resolved by agreement, but Matthew advises claimants and defendants on choice of parties to involve in such claims, and routinely deals with value (including the need for apportionment of damages awards for approval in claims involving infant dependents).

Matthew’s practice in employment law in addition to that in personal injury has led to a particular practice in stress at work claims including advice on choice of jurisdiction (particularly for claimants), dealing with the issues such as abuse of process which might arise when a claimant brings a claim in more than one jurisdiction (particularly for defendants), and valuing personal injury and employment claims in the light of the existence of more than one claim.

Matthew regularly deals with inquests, including (and most frequently) inquests involving death in custody (article 2 inquests). Other recent inquests of note include:-

  • Represented main contractor in a case concerning a death on a multi-occupancy construction site with a view to ensuring that subsequent civil liability did not rest with the main contractor.
  • Represented family in a case concerning a fall from scaffolding with a view to setting up a civil claim (which was subsequently settled).
  • Represented family of a patient who was neglected so as to be able to take her own life when in psychiatric hospital (with a view to setting up a civil claim which was subsequently settled).
  • Represented statutory undertaker in claim involving death caused by their plant.

Following 17 years of practice, Matthew qualified as a mediator in January 2015. His background is predominantly in personal injury and employment law work (and they are the fields in which he has most mediation experience), but Matthew thinks of himself as an old-fashioned “common lawyer” and is happy to mediate in any field. He subscribes to the view that the primary skill that participants should seek in a mediator is an ability to assist the parties achieve a compromise rather than an in-depth knowledge of the law, but he recognises that his in-depth knowledge of personal injury and employment law are regarded by some participants to mediation as an asset.

Personal Injury is not a widely mediated discipline, generally because round-table/ joint settlement meetings tend to be preferred. Matthew’s view is that it is always worth trying to settle a case without a mediation, but mediation can break deadlock when negotiations stall. That can happen in various situations. Amongst the more usual are:-

(a) cases involving multiple parties. Sometimes there are simply too many balls for any one party to juggle to try to reach a compromise and a mediator can help with concurrent negotiating between a number of participants.

(b) cases in which someone is perceived as “unreasonable”. They might in fact be unreasonable, and they might not. What stalls negotiations is the perception that someone (whether a litigant or a legal representative) is behaving unreasonably. A mediation can often unlock the problem.

(c) cases involving something more than money. Every claimant lawyer has heard “it’s not about the money”, and sometimes (not always) that is true. Where a claim really is about something more than money a mediation can be the key to resolving the dispute.

Employment law is often litigated using judicial mediation when a long claim has been started. There are many circumstances in which a non-judicial mediator is more appropriate, including situations in which there is a desire not to get as far as tribunal proceedings (perhaps a dispute at work where the employment relationship continues) or where the anticipated hearing time is relatively modest.

Mediations in every area of law can be tailored to suit the requirements of the case. A modest value claim might best be handled by a relatively short telephone mediation to keep costs down. A large claim is more likely to merit a mediation with the participants present (although they do not have to discuss the case with each other and in heated disputes often do not).

Matthew deals with professional negligence claims arising out of his main practice areas. Such claims can often benefit from mediation:- they frequently result in fairly “high temperature” disputes, but a skilled mediator can often achieve settlement even when that seems impossible.

Matthew spent his first years of practice in chambers in London. He moved to Bristol at the end of 1999 and has practised at St John’s Chambers since then.

The bulk of his practice is in personal injury work, and he routinely deals with all aspects of such litigation for both claimants and defendants (his practice being split roughly equally between claimant and defendant work). The types of work dealt with most frequently are:-

  • Employers’ Liability
  • Public Liability
  • Highway claims
  • Industrial Injuries and Diseases
  • Road Traffic Accidents
  • Tripping and Slipping cases
  • Occupiers’ Liability
  • Inquests

Some of Matthew’s particular interests are dealt with under sub-headings below.

Highways

Matthew has a particular interest in highway law, a topic on which he regularly gives talks.

He acts for a number of highway authority defendants. He was recently involved in Devon County Council v TR [2013] EWCA Civ 418; [2013] PIQR P19 in which the Court of Appeal determined that codes of practice for highway maintenance should not be treated as mandatory standards which had to be adhered to unless there was a positive reason for departure. For a more detailed consideration of the case, click here.

He regularly advises on and litigates claims concerning the distinction between ways which are not highways, highways, and highways maintainable at public expense (and the different legal principles that apply in each instance). For a reported example see Young v Merthyr Tydfil CBC [2009] PIQR P23.

He acted for the successful appellant in Millard v Walsall MBC, unreported, 30/6/14 which made clear that despite Wilkinson v York a highway authority was entitled to suspend routine inspections on budgetary grounds in unusual circumstances (such as an extreme weather event).  For a detailed consideration of the case, click here.

Workplace accidents

A large proportion of Matthew’s practice concerns injuries sustained at work, particularly manual handling claims and cases concerning defective work equipment.

For a recent example of an employee/ employer claim see MacIntyre v Ministry of Defence [2011] EWHC 1690 (QB) (Claimant employee injured on climbing exercise in Bavarian Alps). For a more detailed consideration of the case, see here.

Matthew deals with construction/building disputes (see link to construction & engineering disputes above) and has an appreciation of the realities of building site work as well as a good knowledge of the Construction Regulations as they apply to personal injury cases.

Occupational Illnesses

Matthew regularly undertakes work across the spectrum of occupational illness litigation, particularly asbestos related conditions, work related upper limb disorders, and noise-induced hearing loss. Recent example cases include:-

  • Percy Leonard McDonald v (1) Department for Communities and Local Government; and (2) National Grid Electricity Transmission PLC [2013] EWCA Civ 1346.
  • Acoustic shock claims (including a call-centre and military equipment).
  • An unusual WRULD claim in which a claimant claimed to have sustained carpal tunnel syndrome (rather than the usual vibration white finger) through exposure to vibrations.
  • Routine claims concerning asbestos related conditions. Liability is typically resolved by agreement, but Matthew advises claimants and defendants on choice of parties to involve in such claims, and routinely deals with value (including the need for apportionment of damages awards for approval in claims involving infant dependents).

Matthew’s practice in employment law in addition to that in personal injury has led to a particular practice in stress at work claims including advice on choice of jurisdiction (particularly for claimants), dealing with the issues such as abuse of process which might arise when a claimant brings a claim in more than one jurisdiction (particularly for defendants), and valuing personal injury and employment claims in the light of the existence of more than one claim.

Quantum issues

All issues of valuing claims are regularly dealt with in practice. Matthew has an interest in the issue of interim payments in claims where a periodical payment order is likely and arguments are raised concerning over-capitalisation so as to prevent a PPO being feasible.

Matthew enjoys tricky maths, and regularly deals with awkward calculations in substantial cases.

Pain

Matthew has a particular interest in cases involving the interplay between physical and psychological causes for pain. He advises in claims concerning chronic pain  syndrome, fibromyalgia, somatoform pain disorder and similar diagnoses.

Costs

Matthew undertakes cost budgeting hearings. His preference is to prepare for such hearings sufficiently far in advance to enable discussion with the instructing solicitor to clarify any matters of uncertainty on the budget (that tending to lead to a better outcome at the hearing).

In addition to ordinary summary/ detailed assessment, Matthew occasionally litigates costs issues (including costs issues associated with conditional fee agreements and QOCS).

Recommendations

  • “His attention to detail on complex cases is second to none. He always provides clear advice and has a thorough knowledge of all aspects of highway law.” Chambers UK, Personal Injury (2018)
  • “He has a very calm demeanour and fantastic attention to detail.” Legal 500, Personal injury and clinical negligence (2017)
  • “Matthew advises both claimants and defendants on a variety of issues including asbestos, stress, accident at work and Highway Act claims. ‘He has a talent for thinking on his feet whilst offering considered and robust advice in cases of a complex nature.’ ‘Matthew has a very keen eye for detail and is extremely thorough. He is enthusiastic and works very hard for the best result for the client.’ ” Chambers UK, Personal Injury (2017)
  • “Matthew has very good attention to detail and knowledge in his field.” Legal 500, Personal injury and clinical negligence (2016)
  • “Matthew is forensically thorough, with a talent for thinking on his feet whilst offering considered and robust advice in cases of a complex nature.” Chambers UK, Personal Injury (2016)
  • “Matthew receives frequent instructions from local authorities and statutory undertakers regarding RTAs. He also has considerable expertise in industrial disease claims, including those concerning asbestos. ‘He is a thorough and intelligent advocate, and good with witnesses.’ ” Chambers UK, Personal Injury (2015)
  • “Matthew is approachable, and has a common-sense view on claims.” Legal 500, Personal injury and Clinical Negligence (2015)

Matthew deals with professional negligence claims arising out of the areas of law covered in his usual practice, particularly solicitor’s negligence in personal injury claims, and architect/surveyor’s negligence. He also deals with clinical negligence claims.

Since the late 1990s Matthew has undertaken both building dispute litigation and litigation involving insurance policy interpretation/ coverage. He brings those strands of experience together to advise on and litigate property insurance disputes. Typical cases handled include:-

  • Coverage issues arising from non-disclosure;
  • Interpretation of policy terms (particularly to determine whether or not an insurer is entitled to avoid);
  • Liability issues as between different trades working on a job where something has gone wrong;
  • Issues arising from damage to buried utility cables.

Matthew also boasts expertise in matters of highway law, and has a niche area of practice where insurance and highway issues are relevant together.

Practice Overview

The largest part of Matthew’s practice is in personal injury work and he routinely deals with all aspects of such litigation for both claimants and defendants (his practice being split roughly equally between claimant and defendant work). Matthew also practices in employment law, particularly discrimination claims. Matthew thinks of himself as a “common lawyer” and enjoys occasional cases dealing with more obscure areas of law.

Matthew is qualified to undertake public access work in appropriate cases, for further information, please visit our Public Access page.