A widely reported Third Party Costs Order (TPCO) against Christopher Mercier, a dentist who undertakes expert opinion work, has been overturned by the High Court following an appeal supported by Dental Protection.
Mr Mercier acted as an expert witness in a dental negligence claim which went to trial in December 2020 when recorder Abigail Hudson heavily questioned his competence and actions in the court and later ordered him to pay over £50K in wasted costs.
Dental Protection considered the judgment of Recorder Hudson was wrong both in fact and law in many different respects and sought permission to appeal the decision.
Permission to appeal Rebecca’s judgment was granted by Justice Choudhury, who pointed out that some of the language used in Rebecca’s judgment was "regrettable” and “unduly harsh”.
In allowing the appeal, Justice Sweeting said Rebecca’s conclusion that Christopher stepped outside the boundary of his expertise in giving an expert opinion about a breach of duty and causation in a personal injury case concerning allegations of negligence against an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, was wrong. Justice Sweeting further stated that Rebecca’s views in her judgment were expressed “somewhat trenchantly”. It was largely as a result of the language used by Rebecca that the TPCO received such widespread media reporting at the time.
Raj Rattan, dental director at Dental Protection, said, “Expert witness work is a noble and rewarding duty, and there is a growing need for a larger and more diverse dental expert witness pool. It is, therefore, disappointing to see an expert who is performing the role to the best of his ability, be unfairly criticised and in such a public way.
“Supporting the appeal was important in order put the record straight and restore the reputation of our member, as well as to prevent him from having to pay a significant amount of money in costs. As a not-for-profit organisation run for and owned by healthcare professionals, our default position is to always consider how we can help members; our support goes beyond guarding against financial loss. We can be flexible and responsive to changes in the dentolegal environment and assist with unforeseen issues such as this.
“Fortunately, this kind of criticism and treatment of expert witnesses is very rare. However, we would advise clinicians acting as expert witnesses in clinical negligence cases to always ensure they have adequate professional protection, so they can request assistance with issues arising out of medicolegal work.”