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Factual evidence: Is it a level playing field?

Judges must treat lay witnesses' evidence equally to that of professional witnesses in order to achieve justice, insists Nicola Wainwright

7 July 2015

The recent case of FB
v Rana and Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust [2015] EWHC 1536 (Admin) highlights the difficulties facing parties, and the court, when there is a dispute of fact between a lay witness and a professional witness giving factual evidence.

As in many clinical negligence cases, in FB the dispute was between family members and the treating doctors. Although the doctors were giving evidence as witnesses of fact, they were, of course, also professionals with medical experience and expertise, and a contemporary written account backing up their evidence in the form of medical notes.

The case arose from the alleged delay in the diagnosis and treatment of FB’s meningitis. There was a dispute between
the claimant’s family and the defendant GP and hospital doctor about FB’s reported history, condition when she was seen, and the advice given ...

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