Christopher Johnston QC

Call 1990 | Silk 2011

Christopher Johnston QC | Call 1990 | Silk 2011

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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.

Clinical Negligence & Healthcare

“He is a very, very clever man. Exceptionally bright and capable. A super brain and a nice man too.”
Chambers & Partners


Chris was awarded Clinical Negligence Silk of the Year at the Chambers and Partners Bar Awards 2019

 experience & expertise

Chris 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 complex cases legally and technically for both top claimant and defence firms. He is recognised by Chambers and Partners’ directory as a “band one” clinical negligence silk. Chris leads the Serjeants’ Inn Clinical Negligence and Healthcare Team.

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). He has been exposed to nearly every conceivable type of medical cases, ranging from complex retinopathy of prematurity to high value cerebral palsy and brain damage cases (such as the recent 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 – please see coverage here).

Chris led Claire Watson for the injured claimant in the ground breaking case of XX v Whittington in which the Court of Appeal overturned Lady Hale’s decision in Briody in 2001, and ruled that not only could an award be made to a woman rendered infertile for the costs of surrogacy – but that the award (on the facts of that case) could encompass four commercial surrogacies in California – see further details here.

As a junior he had extensive experience of high profile inquests and in silk he has continued his specialist practice in 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 – see further details here.

Other recent examples include a case in which Chris represented a brain damaged claimant awarded £13 million in damages – details are here.

He also led Richard Partridge for a 10 year old claimant who had to have a kidney transplant due to negligent treatment at a private hospital. The claimant was awarded £4.8 million in damages – please click here for further details.

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


“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’s fantastic on quantum and his pleadings are a master class in succinctness.”
Chambers & Partners

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

“He has an incredible mind and an excellent manner with clients. He is the full package.”
Chambers & Partners

“He has an incredible technical ability and exceptional advocacy skills.”
Chambers & Partners

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

“Highly experienced. He takes an innovative approach to the complex cases and is so easy to work with”
Chambers & Partners

“Standout practitioner who is revered for his analytical prowess and who has extensive experience of handling clinical negligence claims of great value and complexity. He is ferociously bright and a formidable opponent.He’s always meticulously prepared and gets fantastic results.”
Chambers & Partners

“He is a very, very clever man. Exceptionally bright and capable. A super brain and a nice man too.”
Chambers & Partners

“He is extraordinarily bright, brilliant at detail and using innovative technology”
The Legal 500

“Very organised and very analytical. He is incredibly thorough and an excellent advocate.”
Chambers & Partners

Has the ability to explain ferociously complex cases in simple, straightforward language. His forensic approach to the issues means no stone is left unturned.” “He’s absolutely excellent, and addresses and anticipates everything.”
Chambers & Partners

“He brings a forensic analysis of the papers yet a commercial approach to the litigation process.”
The Legal 500 

“Tirelessly hard-working with a fresh and always compelling view of the fast-emerging law in this area. A joy to work with. He is an original thinker. He comes up with ideas that haven’t been thought of before. It’s always good to have him on your side.”
Chambers & Partners

“Excellent judgement and a great manner.”
Chambers & Partners

“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 

“He is the full package; phenomenal attention to detail, wonderful with clients and brilliant to work with.”
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 impressive silk receiving instructions from the biggest firms in claimant-side product liability. He was formerly senior counsel in the fetal anticonvulsant litigation. He brings to the table a very clear, straightforward, logical approach. He can make very complicated matters appear so simple. He’s a tremendous strategic thinker.”  Chambers & Partners 

“His attention to detail and preparation is phenomenal.”
The Legal 500

“A charming silk with unsurpassed conference preparation.”
The Legal 500

“Christopher Johnston QC is quite superb, according to market commentators, many of whom referred to his excellent pleadings. His ability to explain very complex ideas in simple ways is a true sign of quality and his tenacious, detail-oriented style makes him a real favourite.” 
Chambers & Partners

“The hugely clever Christopher Johnston QC”
The Legal 500

“Christopher Johnston QC of Serjeants’ Inn is especially adept at cases involving injury caused by medical or pharmaceutical products and devices. Peers say he is very bright and approachable.”
Chambers & Partners

“New silk Christopher Johnston QC’s pleadings and conferences are always astonishingly well prepared; he rigorously addresses every single detail and you can always be completely confident in his judgement.” 
The Legal 500

“Christopher Johnston QC, a recent silk who heads the clinical negligence team. He is reliable, clever and good with clients, and has a busy practice which often focuses on complex claimant cases.”
Chambers & Partners

“Christopher Johnston regularly acts for both claimants and defendants when very large sums of money are at stake.  He has an exceptional grasp of the medical issues and is known for invariably making the right moves in a case.”
Chambers & Partners 

“Christopher Johnston is widely admired for his user-friendly manner: He is a joy to work with and clients love him. He is also credited with achieving consistently excellent results, with a number of interviewees commenting that his pleadings are extremely accomplished. Solicitors rely on him.”
Chambers & Partners

cases & work of note

Chris’s recent caseload includes:

  • Cerebral palsy;
  • Kernicertus brain damage following neonatal negligence;
  • High value fatal accident quantification;
  • High value paraplegia cases following injuries sustained after inappropriate psychiatric management;
  • Acquired brain injury, including injury following surgery and anaesthetic accidents;
  • Complex multi-party mediation;
  • Spinal cord injury;
  • Meningitis;
  • Brachial plexus injuries at birth;
  • Delayed diagnosis of cancer;
  • Cauda Equina Syndrome;
  • Retinopathy of prematurity;
  • Amputations;
  • All aspects of hip implant treatment; and
  • Other catastrophic and life-changing injuries.


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.

He is the current co-chair with Nick Peacock of the PNBA Clinical Negligence weekend, hosting it for the third time this year.


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

  • R (Dyer) v The Welsh Ministers, [2015] EWHC 3712 (Admin), [2016] Med LR 185
    Judicial review – Public law duties – Resource allocation in NHS Wales – Medium secure accommodation – Necessity to provide medium secure accommodation in Wales – Margin of discretion – Failure to collate information – Appropriate cohort of patient to consider – Resources for those with autistic spectrum disorder and learning disability.
  • R (SSP Health Ltd) v CQC, [2016] EWHC 2086 (Admin), [2016] Med LR 473
    Judicial review – Common law duty of procedural fairness – Procedure for curing factual inaccuracies in CQC inspection report – Approach to challenge of factual accuracies if lacuna in procedure – Internal independent review process versus judicial review – Health and Social Care Act 2008.
  • Robshaw v United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, [2015] EWHC 923 (QB), [2015] Med LR 339
    Damages assessment – Tetraplegia – Reduced life expectancy – Strauss data – “Reasonable needs” – Whether child rearing costs recoverable – Home-based swimming pool.
  • Laughton v Shalaby, [2014] EWCA Civ 1450, [2015] Med LR 1
    Clinical negligence – Breach of duty – Similar fact evidence – Assumption of negligence with rare complications.
  • A v Uni Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, [2015] EWHC 366 (QB), [2015] Med LR 204
    Quantum – Assessment of damages – Injury of utmost severity – Correct approach to assessment of damages – Whether proportionality of sum sought material – In-home hydrotherapy claim – Whether to set-off sum for parental rent or mortgage payment in accommodation claim.
  • Smith v Bailey, [2014[ EWHC 2569 (QB), [2014] Med LR 408
    Interim payment application – Appropriate approach to calculation of future accommodation claim – Capital sum versus periodic payment approach – Whether award of periodic payment for rent appropriate.
  • Warren v Care Fertility (Northampton) Ltd, [2014] EWHC 602 (Fam), [2014] Med LR 217
    Consent to storage of sperm – Right to a family life – interpretation of fertility regulations in accordance with right to family life – Human Rights Act, section 3.