Lords acquits barrister of medical negligence claim

A barrister who was found negligent by the Court of Appeal has been vindicated in the House of Lords.

Jacqueline Perry, a junior specialising in personal injury (PI) cases at 2 Temple Gardens, was instructed on a PI claim in 1997 by solicitors Pettman Smith on behalf of client David Moy.

Moy broke his left leg playing football in 1992. He continued to suffer pain and mobility problems after treatment in a Maidstone hospital and eventually launched a negligence claim against the health authority.

Perry advised that the claim was worth at least £200,000. When the health authority offered a £150,000 settlement, she advised Moy to reject it, saying she was “hopeful” that medical evidence would be permitted, enabling a better result in court.

In court it emerged that the evidence would not be allowed, and the authority lowered its offer to £120,000, less costs. Perry advised Moy to accept this, and the case settled on those terms.

Moy then launched a negligence claim against Pettman Smith and Perry. Although Mr Justice Geddes, sitting in the High Court, found the law firm negligent, he acquitted Perry. In May 2003 the Court of Appeal overturned Geddes’ decision saying that Perry had failed to express herself clearly, and ordered her to pay Moy 50 per cent of the damages.

On 3 February, the Lords reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision, saying that Perry’s advice was reasonable in the “unusual” circumstances.

Perry told The Lawyer: “I think it’s an essential and important issue for the bar and solicitor-advocates to maintain their independent and unfettered ability to give advice where needed to clients. I’m hugely appreciative of what was done for me by everybody.”

Pettman Smith was advised by Barlow Lyde & Gilbert partner Andrew Blair, instructing 4 New Square’s Bernard Livesey QC. Christopher Coffin of Withers acted for Perry, with Sir Sydney Kentridge QC of Brick Court as counsel.