Christopher Johnston QC

Call 1990 | Silk 2011

Christopher Johnston QC | Call 1990 | Silk 2011

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Overview

Chris has undertaken the most complex cases legally and technically for both top claimant and defence firms. He is a team-player, ensuring he works with his talented solicitors to get the best from their experts. He adopts a meticulous forensic approach. Through focussed questioning of specialists, he distils complex medical and scientific ideas into a straightforward presentation for the court. His empathetic approach ensures that clients understand their own cases and the legal team’s assessment of their merits. Chris was awarded Clinical Negligence Silk of the Year at the Chambers and Partners Bar Awards 2019.

Clinical Negligence & Healthcare

“He fights furiously for his clients, but never lets that get in the way of common sense and reasonableness”
Chambers & Partners

 

Chris successfully represented the injured claimant in the ground-breaking case of XX v Whittington which changed the law on the recoverability of surrogacy damages.
Click here to watch the Supreme Court hearing,  here for press coverage from The Guardian and The Telegraph and here for our healthcare blog’s review of the decision.

experience & expertise

Chris leads the award-winning Serjeants’ Inn Clinical Negligence and Healthcare Team .  He has been recognised as a leading clinical negligence practitioner for many, many years. Before the age of 30, Legal 500 included him in their “top 40 barristers under 40”. As a silk he has undertaken the most legally and technically complex cases for both top claimant and defence firms. He is a team-player, ensuring he works with his top-rank solicitors to get the best from their experts. He adopts a meticulous forensic approach. Through focussed questioning of specialists, he distils complex medical and scientific ideas into a straightforward presentation for the court. His empathetic approach ensures that clients are reassured, and understand their own cases and the legal team’s assessment of their merits.

His extensive experience has been recognised by his peers: he was appointed as co-chair of the Professional Negligence Bar Association’s Clinical Negligence weekend (2014-2018). Chris was awarded Clinical Negligence Silk of the Year at the Chambers and Partners Bar Awards 2019. He has been exposed to nearly every conceivable type of medical case, ranging from complex retinopathy of prematurity to high value cerebral palsy and brain damage cases (such as the Fieldfisher case in which a £9m award was secured for Rebecca Ling, whose heroism in the face of her profound disabilities was recognised when she carried the Olympic flame). He has extensive experience of fatal cases including recently acting for Irwin Mitchell in a £4 million settlement for the family of an investment banker who died after receiving sub-standard medical treatment.

Chris’s background in medical ethics cases and position as editor of the leading medical treatment text means he is well placed to handle the sensitive issues involved in mental health clinical negligence cases. He has acted in many high value claims involving catastrophic injuries following suicide attempts. Chris recently acted in a case involving an informal patient with a long history of mental illness, who was allowed to run away from hospital in a suicidal state, then jumped from a balcony sustaining permanent and catastrophic spinal cord injury, leaving him tetraplegic and wheelchair-bound. Click here for further details.

Chris is adept at handling cases involving novel points of law such as XX v Whittington (surrogacy), and Toombes v Mitchell (wrongful life claim from disabled woman allegedly born as a result of negligent pre-conception advice given to her mother).

He has unrivalled technical expertise in dealing with vast group actions as both junior and silk. He is exceptionally computer-savvy using his Excel skills to create impressive shortcuts for juniors and solicitors through substantial damages and disclosure exercises.

Chris spoke to APIL during lockdown on the use of technology in litigation.  He has led in-house and external talks on mediation. He constantly looks to innovate and learn from other fields and professions: over the last 5 years, he has chaired a series of talks and conversations led by Nicola Hurdley, serving Detective Chief Inspector and Crisis Negotiator, on improving communication techniques by learning from internationally recognised tactics.

recommendations

“A truly outstanding silk at the top of his game.”
The Legal 500

“He has fantastic client care skills and he’s very clever. He’s a star there. Exceptionally hard-working, he is user-friendly, intelligent, committed, and demonstrates good judgment. Also produces excellent pleadings.” 
Chambers & Partners

“An outstanding silk who is at the top of his game. He has meticulous forensic rigour and phenomenal attention to detail. He is also supremely intelligent and very tactically astute.”
Chambers & Partners

“He is the full package; phenomenal attention to detail, wonderful with clients and brilliant to work with.”
The Legal 500

“He’s extraordinarily good and very patient with clients – he debunks the mysteries associated with litigation, makes things understandable and puts them at ease. He’s exceptionally detailed. His preparation  for conferences is second to none and you always know he’ll have got to grips with everything.”
Chambers & Partners 

‘A truly brilliant advocate, always on top of the detail and approachable with a very easy manner.’
The Legal 500

‘Streets ahead in use of technology and makes the most complex information digestible.’
The Legal 500

cases & work of note

Examples of Chris’s work includes the following:

publications

He edits Medical Treatment: Decisions and the Law (Bloomsbury Professional, 3rd ed, 2016) and writes for the Medical Law Reports. He wrote “A personal (and selective) introduction to product liability law” (2012) J.P.I.L. 1. He has spoken to wide-ranging audiences including the PEOPIL conference in Malaga, and Europol in the Hague.

Chris’s recent talks include:

  • “Use of technology during the Covid-19 pandemic: Top Tips” (with Frances McClenaghan), APIL 13th July 2020
  • “Communications and Negotiations”, chairing a series of on-going talks and conversations led by Nicola Hurdley, serving Detective Chief Inspector and Crisis Negotiator (within Chambers from 2016 and externally from 2021).
  • XX v Whittington – recovery of surrogacy damages , July 2020

articles

As a contributing editor, Chris has recently reported on the following cases for the Medical Law Reports:

  • Swift v Carpenter, [2020] EWCA Civ 1295, [2020] Med LR 527
    Personal injuries – Capital accommodation claims – Quantification of accommodation claims – Valuation of reversionary interest off-set – Point in time to assess reversionary interest – Term certain multiplier for life expectancy – Fair and reasonable, but not excessive, compensation.
  • NKX v Barts Health NHS Trust, [2020] EWHC 828 (QB), [2020] Med LR 298
    Clinical negligence – Obstetrics – Breach of duty in consenting for fetal monitoring – Causation – Duration of hypoxia – Myers hypothesis versus extended Myers hypothesis on hypoxia.
  • Raqueeb v Barts NHS Foundation Trusts (Costs), [2019] EWHC 3320 (Admin) and [2019] EWHC 3322 (Fam), [2020] Med LR 17
    Costs – Whether costs to follow the event in Children Act proceedings – Whether costs to follow the event in judicial review – Exercise of costs’ discretion – Children Act 1989, section 8 – Children Act 2004, section 11(2)(a) – Civil Procedure Rules, rr 44.2, 44.10 – Family Procedure Rules, r 28.1 – Senior Courts Act 1981, sections 31(2A), 51(1)(b).
  • R (ota CXF) v Central Bedfordshire Council [2018] EWCA Civ 2852, [2019] Med LR 88
    Meaning of “after-care services” within section 117 of Mental Health Act 1983 – Expenses travelling to support patient – Use of Mental Health Act Code of Practice to interpret Mental Health Act – Statutory interpretation.
  • East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust v PW [2019] EWCOP 10, [2019] Med LR 218
    Capacity – Paranoid schizophrenia with delusional beliefs – Below knee amputation – Best interests’ assessment – Urgent application.
  • Jones  v Taunton And Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, [2019] EWHC 1408 (QB), [2019] Med LR 384
    Clinical negligence – Breach of duty – Contemporary responsible body of medical opinion – Obstetric negligence – Choice of tocolytic drug.