Belinda Johns

Special Counsel
BA, LLB (Hons)

Belinda has spent the majority of her legal career specialising in health law, acting primarily for patients and family members in the civil context.  She has played a significant role in not only obtaining remedies for clients both within and outside of the ACC system, but also contributing to the development of the law itself in New Zealand.  A successful appeal to the Privy Council on the issue of medical negligence has been a career highlight (A v Bottrill).

As a result, Belinda brings a unique perspective to Claro.  She knows what patients need when things go wrong, and, conversely, what health professionals need to do to avoid legal intervention and to minimise risk.  Belinda also has a particular interest in clinical processes, risk management and patient care from a medico-legal point of view.

Belinda enjoys working alongside health professionals and specialists, assisting and supporting them with their clinical practices and pre-empting potential issues and resolving any disputes that may arise.

“When things go wrong it’s an incredibly emotional and stressful time for all involved. Getting to the heart of a problem is what motivates me, while striving to obtain practical and pragmatic solutions before each party gets too entrenched. We operate within a distinctively unique framework in New Zealand with the existence of ACC and the inability to sue. While this affords health professionals with a certain level of protection, best clinical practice and risk management remains the key.”

Belinda’s experience includes

  • Acting for health practitioners on disciplinary issues, including a case involving breach of patient privacy and confidential information
  • Advising and acting for DHBs at inquests
  • Prosecuting and defending health professionals on professional misconduct charges before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal
  • Instructing and working with expert witnesses, often on involved and technical medical issues
  • Advising private hospitals in regard to day to day management of both staffing and clinical practice issues, and in relation to complaints before the Health and Disability Commissioner
  • Acting for ACC in review proceedings where entitlements to cover arise from complex clinical situations
  • Appearing in the Privy Council: A v Bottrill [2003] 2 NZLR 721 (PC) – successful appeal of A v Bottrill [2001] 3 NZLR CA: exemplary damages for medical negligence
  • Assisting senior counsel on other landmark and test cases involving exemplary damages; mental injury (“nervous shock”), including the vicarious liability of district health boards; breach of fiduciary duty; disclosure of counselling notes; as well as damages for the cost of raising a child following a failed vasectomy.
  • Appearing in the High Court on time limitation issues (including a breach of fiduciary claim against a psychologist and historic sexual abuse cases)
  • Appearing in ACC tribunals and appeal authorities, mainly in regard to treatment injuries and claimants’ levels of entitlements
  • Prosecuting medical students for misconduct on behalf of the University of Auckland Disciplinary Tribunal and defending a dentist in the Dentists Disciplinary Tribunal (now Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal)
  • Liaising with the Health and Disability Commissioner on behalf of clients in respect of investigations into health practitioners and their conduct in accordance with the Code of Patient Rights
  • Assisting counsel at government inquiries: the Gisborne Cervical Cancer Inquiry (2000) and the Review of Processes Concerning Adverse Events Inquiry (2001), “the Cull Report”
  • Preparing for and attending inquests on behalf of families of the deceased
  • Senior Associate in the personal litigation team of a large Auckland law firm
  • Additional litigation expertise in:
  • Estate claims (breach of moral duty, lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence)
  • Defamation
  • Relationship property and trust issues
  • Other tortious wrongs (assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress)
  • Various commercial disputes
  • Preparing continuing education seminars for the legal profession (New Zealand Law Society, Auckland District Law Society and LexisNexis) and for the Auckland Medico-Legal Society; and presenting an employment law update to accountants.