Scope of expert witness immunity from civil suit

Although not directly addressing expert witness immunity, Nikolaidis v Satouris [2014] NSWCA 448 is a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales (Beazley P, Barrett JA & Ward JA) indicating that an immunity from civil suit should apply even if the claim made is based on a statutory cause of action for misleading and deceptive conduct.

In its reasons the court recited, apparently with approval, an English decision indicating that an immunity from civil suit will not extend to disciplinary proceedings. At [42]:

The immunity under discussion is immunity from civil suit. It is not immunity from liability as such. That, coupled with the fact that the immunity has its roots in public policy, means that it is not an absolute immunity. Meadow v General Medical Council [2006] EWCA Civ 1390, [2007] QB 462, a case concerning the allied immunity of witnesses, illustrates the way in which the similar public policy underpinning that immunity may yield to a competing public policy. It was there held that immunity from suit of an expert medical witness in relation to evidence given by him in legal proceedings did not extend to immunity from disciplinary or fitness to practise proceedings. Those proceedings have the purpose of protecting the public by ensuring that persons who are not fit to practise do not do so; and it was regarded as wrong in principle for the court to limit the powers of an inquiry into fitness to practice by extending the immunity from civil suit to such an inquiry.

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