Tufano v Vincenti

[2006] EWHC 1496 (QB)

Immunity from Suit applicable to Experts – Libel Proceedings

The Facts

The applicant (V) had been instructed as an expert psychiatrist to prepare a report on T’s psychiatric condition and on any other matters within his expertise. T had agreed to the preparation of the report but complained that it was defamatory.

The Issues

Was there immunity from suit for the expert witness?

The Decision

As a witness V was protected by immunity from suit. This applied to him as an expert witness and applied to libel proceedings.

Comment

This decision relied on the High Court decision of Collins J in Meadow v GMC [2006] EWHC 146 (Admin). Notably, that case and its specific decision on immunity from disciplinary/regulatory proceedings has recently been overturned on appeal by the Court of Appeal (see the article in this edition of the Expert and Dispute Resolver which reviews the Court of Appeal decision). Nevertheless, it appears probable that this High Court decision remains a correct one as a matter of law on the footing that libel proceedings are properly viewed as being a “suit” - albeit that the normal sort of proceedings would generally be founded on allegations of professional negligence.