John Ross

Call: 1971, KC: 2001
King’s Counsel (KC)

"He has an excellent manner with clients and provides insightful commentary and advice."
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He specializes in professional negligence and insurance-related claims, contract and commercial, public and regulatory law and personal injury claims. He also has considerable experience in commercial arbitration, Technology Court and construction adjudication hearings. His work also takes him overseas to appear and advise in other jurisdictions.

John was made a Recorder in 1994, a Bencher of the Inner Temple in 2006 and a Legal Assessor for the RCVS Disciplinary Committee in 2006. He is a past Committee Member of the LCLCBA and a past Vice-Chair and Chair of the Professional Negligence Bar Association – 2010/11 and 2012/13.
Recent cases
Brownlie v Four Seasons Holdings Inc [2015] EWCA Civ 665; [2016] 1 WLR 1814;

[2017] UKSC 80; [2018] 1 WLR 192 (SC);

[2019] EWHC 2533 (QB)

Summary: Service out of jurisdiction; Contract and Tort Gateways; Permission to substitute new Party.

The Court of Appeal ruled that a widow was entitled to bring proceedings in the UK for damages against the Canadian hotel company following an accident on a sightseeing excursion in Egypt, arranged by the concierge of the hotel they were staying at, in which she was injured and her husband killed. She had a good arguable case in contract as her contract for the excursion had been made with the company and had been made in England. In addition she had a claim in tort in respect of a dependency claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and/or Egyptian law, but (according to the ruling of the Court of Appeal) she could not show that "damage" was sustained within the jurisdiction in respect of her claims in tort for her injuries sustained and loss and damage suffered as her husband's executrix.

The Canadian hotel company appealed the decision of the Court of Appeal and the Claimant cross appealed the decision regarding her personal claim in tort and that of the Estate of her deceased husband.  The appeal hearing before the Supreme Court commended on 9 May and was completed on 20 July.

The decision of the Supreme Court reviewed and determined the scope and boundaries of the contract and tort gateways for service out of the jurisdiction in relation to non-EU claims.  It also reviewed the correctness of the Canada Trust “merits test” and determined that that case had set the bar at too high a level.  These determinations have been long awaited by those advising victims of injuries sustained whilst travelling abroad.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court and the reference back to the High Court for a determination of the Claimant’s application for permission to substitute another Four Seasons company as the correct Defendant, the High Court (Nicol J) granted permission for such substitution; ruled that the tort and contract gateway requirements had been satisfied; and granted permission to the Claimant to serve the claim form and particulars of claim out of the jurisdiction on the substituted Defendant.

In doing so the Court carried out a detailed review the law applicable to the tort and contract gateway requirements and the relevant merits test, and applied the majority view of the Justices of the Supreme Court.  In addition the Court undertook a major review of the law applicable to applications for permission to substitute a new party (CPR 19.2 and 19.5) when there was a dispute about whether the limitation period prescribed by the foreign law had or had not expired.  The rulings by Nicol J confirm the correctness of the six first instance decisions on the scope of the tort gateway and provide much needed clarity for those who have suffered injuries whilst present in countries outside the EU.

 John Ross Q.C. and Matthew Chapman Q.C. appeared for the Claimant

KXL & Others -v- Murphy & Anor [2016] EWHC 3102 (QB)

Summary:  Private International Law; s.2 of the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984.

The High Court, on 2 December 2016, handed down an important judgment dealing with the issues arising out of the provisions of the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984 and whether the circumstances of this case warranted a disapplication of a foreign law limitation period either on grounds that it offended public policy or on the grounds that the Claimants has suffered undue hardship – as prescribed by s.2 of the 1984 Act.

The claims concerned assaults said to have been committed in Uganda but which were issued in this jurisdiction. The Defendants raised as a defence the provisions of the Ugandan Limitation Act 1959 (in essence, 3 years from reaching the age of majority at 18) whereby the claims were statute barred.  It was common ground that the applicable law was Ugandan law so the issue came before the Court as a Preliminary Issue of law.  The Claimants contended that although the lex causae was Ugandan law the content and operation of its limitation provisions were contrary to public policy and/or its operation would cause the Claimants undue hardship within the meaning of section 2 of the 1984 Act because Ugandan law made no provision for an extension of time on grounds identical or similar to section 33 of the English Limitation Act 1980.

Mr Justice Wilkie, in a careful and closely reasoned judgment ruled that the provisions of the Ugandan Limitation Act 1959 were not contrary to public policy as although some jurisdictions made provision a discretionary extension of time for the commencement of proceedings other jurisdictions did not and described the Claimants’ submissions in this regard as “bold”. The learned Judge similarly dismissed the argument that the Claimants had suffered undue hardship within the special meaning to be attributed to that term as it is found in section 2(2) of the 1984 Act, saying that he could answer that question with a clear “No”.

The Claimants sought permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal, but permission was refused on 24 May 2017.

The implications of this judgment are important in that they confirm that the provisions of the 1984 Act are still alive and well. The concept underlying the introduction of that Act was that the English courts should not take a parochial view of foreign law provisions and treat them as subordinate to English law.  Instead the principle should be that the lex causae should determine all substantive law issues in a claim which occurred abroad, subject only to an ability on the part of an English court to find that the foreign law provision was contrary to public policy (a high threshold) or caused a particular claimant particular hardship beyond that which is inevitable if the foreign limitation provision is applied (a similarly high threshold). 

A further consequence of this decision is that it may serve to dampen enthusiasm for forum shopping in the area of tort claims.

Laura Johnson appeared for D1; John Ross Q.C. and Matthew Chapman appeared for D2.


Legg & Ors v. Aviva [2016] EWCA Civ 97

Summary: Basis for making an adverse costs order against a third party funder.

On 23 February 2016 the Court of Appeal handed down a judgment in the case of Legg & Ors v. Aviva [2016] EWCA Civ 97.  The case concerned the scope and application of the rule relating to a party’s ability to secure an adverse costs order against a third party who funded the unsuccessful claim by a claimant /defence of a defendant.  Additionally it concerned the proper interpretation of a “costs” term in the Defendant’s “Public Liability” policy.

In upholding the decision below to order that Aviva should pay the Claimants’ costs of pursuing the Aviva’s assured to judgment, both (i) on the ground that Aviva was a third party funder of the Assured’s unsuccessful defence of the Claimants’ claims and (ii) on the ground that the terms of the Assured’s policy obliged Aviva to meet such costs, the Court of Appeal clarified and explained the existing authorities on the liability of third party funders to adverse costs consequences when they choose to intervene in litigation and to support an unsuccessful defence of a legitimate claim.  The relevant test is whether the insurers were “motivated either exclusively or at least predominantly, by a consideration of its own interest in the manner in which it conducted the defence of the litigation.”

Additionally the Court explained how policy terms relating to costs coverage should be interpreted, namely by reference to whether or not the Insurer’s proposed construction of the policy wording would produce “an extraordinary result”.  If so, although the lay-out of definition clause was supportive, the extraordinary result of the Insurer’s proposition rendered it “highly unlikely, looking at the matter objectively, that the parties could have intended this result. It is not the result, if the words at the end of the definition are read as qualifying the entire definition, rather than just paragraph 3. This consideration is, in my judgment, more than sufficient to displace any weight that may be placed on the lay-out of the definition. Accordingly, the closing words also qualify paragraph 1, which encompass the costs order made in favour of the claimants and against Sterte [the Assured] in this case.

It followed that Sterte, the Assured, was entitled to be indemnified by its Insurers against the costs order in favour of the Claimants and, by reason of the [Third Party (Rights Against Insurers)] 1930 Act, that right vested in the Claimants.

Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused.

The successful Claimants/Respondents were represented by John Ross QC and Geoffrey Weddell.


South West SHA v Bay Island Voyages [2015] EWCA Civ 708; [2016] QB 503

Summary: Effect of Athens Convention limitation provisions; consequences for contribution claims.

This case determined the question whether the Athens Convention 1974 governing the liability owed by carriers to their passengers extended to claims against the carrier for contribution to the liability of others. It was held that the 2 year time-bar imposed in art.16 of the Convention was remedy-barring as opposed to right-extinguishing and, therefore, did not govern claims brought under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978.

The appellant employer appealed against a decision that its claim for contribution against the respondent to a personal injury claim brought by one of its employees was barred under the Athens Convention 1974.

The employee had been injured during a work team-building outing on a rigid inflatable boat owned and operated by the respondent. The employee sued the employer for damages for personal injury and the employer issued a Part 20 claim against the respondent seeking a contribution to any liability. The respondent filed a defence that the contribution claim was barred because it had not been issued within the two-year time limit in art.16 of the Convention.

Before the Court of Appeal the issues were (i) whether the Convention was directly applicable to the contribution claim; (ii) the nature of the time bar under art.16.

The Court of Appeal HELD, allowing the appeal that:

(1) The Convention dealt with claims by passengers against carriers and with nothing else. It did not purport to be a complete code governing all liability of sea carriers in respect of carriage of passengers and their luggage, Abnett v British Airways Plc [1997] A.C. 430 applied. Rights of recourse between carriers and other parties were not mentioned in the Convention. An action in which a claim for contribution from the carrier was sought in respect of the employer's liability for personal injury to its employee was not "an action for damages for... personal injury to a passenger... brought against a carrier". The claim to contribution was autonomous and derived from the English domestic statutory entitlement to contribution. It was unsurprising that the claim in itself was unaffected by the provisions of the Convention. On the other hand, the carrier's liability to contribute was critically dependent on its own liability to the passenger, which in turn was governed by the provisions of the Convention, including those as to limitation.

(2) The language of art.16 did not extinguish the right on which the claim was based: it was remedy-barring as opposed to right-extinguishing. However, it was appropriate to approach the effect of art.16 having regard to the fact that it was the language of an international convention rather than a domestic statute. There was no corpus of international understanding pursuant to which the language of art.16 should be regarded as extinguishing the right of action. The ultimate question was what the words meant, which was prompted by an exclusively domestic enquiry of whether the statutory right to contribution was excluded by reason of s.1(3) of the 1978 Act. Whilst the words used in art.16 had an international or Convention provenance, they did not have an autonomous and internationally understood meaning that was different in effect from that which they naturally bore in the English language and as understood in English law.

The successful Appellants/Defendants were represented by John Ross QC and Ian Miller.

Cassley v. GMP Securities & Sundance [2015] EWHC 722 (QB)

Summary: Scope of Employers’ duties of care when employee working abroad; causation.

Successful defence of a claim brought by a deceased employee against his employer (their insurers) for damages arising out of his death in a plane crash which occurred whilst he was en route from Younde, Cameroon, to inspect an iron ore mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The charter plane selected by the client very shortly before commencement of flight and without consulting the Employer in London. HELD, in a detailed judgment, that the Claimant had failed to prove that any negligence on the part of the Employer had had any causative effect.

Permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal was refused on 8 July 2016, following an oral hearing.
Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 Rankings
Legal 500 2022

Travel Law - Leading Silks - Tier 1 - ‘He has no weaknesses.'

At the top of his game – go-to counsel for jurisdictional issues.

Professional Negligence - Leading Silks - Tier 3 - 'A silk with a superb intellect.  He is charming and impressive in court.'

‘He is very experienced.’

Personal Injury - Leading Silks - Tier 3 - ‘A tour de force trial advocate. Always willing to put himself out for their client.’

His specialist knowledge in acquired brain injuries is superb.

Chambers & Partners 2022

Personal Injury (Silks) Band 2

John Ross KC has tremendous experience of handling catastrophic head injury claims. He is noted for his specific expertise in acquired brain injuries, as well as cases involving foreign travel. He is instructed by both claimant firms and defendant insurers.

"He has such depth of experience that his insight is invaluable." "He is exceptional in his strategic input, his advice is always spot on and he cuts through to the heart of the issues. He has a very good client manner too."

Travel: International Personal Injury (Silks) Band 3

John Ross KC is routinely instructed in significant catastrophic injury and fatal accident claims and has longstanding experience of acting for claimants and insurers on the defendant side. His cases regularly involve employer liability, indemnity and international safety standards.

"A very calm, unflappable barrister who is wise in his approach and absolutely top notch on the law. He is accessible and brings invaluable insight to his cases - he's an exceptional performer." "An incredibly senior KC who brings gravitas to cases and is knowledgeable on travel jurisdiction issues."
2017 Global International’s Professional Negligence Barrister of the Year – England

  • Professional Negligence Bar Association

  • London Common Law and Commercial Bar Association

  • Technology and Construction Bar Association

  • Personal Injury Bar Association

University College, London (1968 LLB; 1970 LLM)

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