David Knifton QC

Call 1986
Silk 2018

kniftonqc@exchangechambers.co.uk

"An excellent strategist who is completely trusted by clients and will fight tooth and nail to get the best result possible."

Chambers and Partners 2021
Photo of David Knifton QC

Military Injury Claims

David has extensive experience in handling high-value military claims. He practises exclusively in the fields of Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence, particularly cases involving brain or spinal cord injuries, amputations and other catastrophic injuries.

His abilities as an outstanding advocate and tactician are widely recognised. For the past 10 years, he has achieved settlements on behalf of his clients averaging over £20m per year, and typically around £25m-£30m per year since taking silk. He is consistently recommended as a leading barrister in Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500.

His vast experience, legal expertise, meticulous preparation, excellent client skills and pragmatic approach are highly-valued by many of the country’s leading PI and clinical negligence firms.

In addition to his PI and clinical negligence work, David has acted at a number of high-profile Inquests and public inquiries, including the Checkpoint ‘Blue 25’ Inquest (2011) concerning the deaths of 5 UK servicemen shot by a rogue Afghan policeman. In 2014 he was interviewed on the British Forces News channel after speaking at the APIL Military Claims Conference at the Churchill War Rooms in London on combat immunity.

David regularly provides lectures and training on topical legal issues both through Chambers and to organisations including AVMA, APIL, SCIL and PIBA, and is a frequent contributor to Chambers’ PI Newsletter. He has over 15 years’ experience sitting as a Recorder in both the Crown and county courts.

Cases

G, M and M v MOD – in which awards totalling over £9m were secured on behalf of 3 servicemen who suffered very serious injuries when their inadequately-armoured Pinzgauer vehicles struck roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan. The claims raised difficult legal issues regarding the scope of the defence of combat immunity. Arguing that the shortcomings of the vehicles (nicknamed “coffins on wheels” by troops) were known to the MOD prior to their deployment in Afghanistan, such that the procurement decision had not been taken in the heat of battle (Smith v MOD [2013] UKSC 41), David (leading Chris Barnes) persuaded the Defendants to compromise the claims without any admission of liability

M v MOD – in which David (leading Paul Kirtley) secured an award of over £7m on behalf of a Navy pilot who suffered a severe brain injury and multiple fractures after landing his Merlin helicopter on the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious at night-time, when he fell between decks due to the flight deck lift being opened without a warning being sounded. Although the Claimant had made a remarkably good physical recovery, he had been left with major problems of fatigue, cognitive impairments and behavioural issues, such that his career as a Navy pilot had been terminated, he was unlikely to be capable of remunerative employment and he was left with significant support needs. Part of the award included the rental of a respite flat, where the Claimant could stay during the week in order to manage his fatigue away from the demands of his family

S v MOD – in which David secured an award of £2.35m on behalf of an Army Captain who suffered a severe brain injury and multiple orthopaedic injures when he fell from the rock face on Ben Nevis during a poorly-planned military climbing exercise, resulting in post-traumatic epileptic seizures, cognitive impairments and behavioural change, prematurely ending his promising Army career (he had been expected to promote to Lt Colonel) and restricting him to part-time employment. The client subsequently commented: “I am truly grateful for all the support and effort my legal team put in to my case. They made what had seemed like a very daunting and unnerving process a clear and transparent one where I felt supported and informed throughout”

C v MOD – in which an award of £325,000 was secured for a brain injury to an RAF technician who fell from a poorly-designed platform whilst servicing a helicopter

G v G4S – in which David negotiated a settlement at mediation of £175,000 on behalf of a former Infantry officer who suffered PTSD whilst working as a security project manager for a contractor in Iraq. As a result of vetting failures, another ex-serviceman (DF) was employed as a close security operative, despite having been dishonourably discharged from the Army due to misconduct, having a number of criminal convictions and unstable mental health. Having been issued with live weapons, DF became involved in a drunken argument with 2 other employees, whom he fatally shot within the compound, causing a situation of panic to develop in which the compound was believed to be under attack from insurgents. The Claimant rendered first aid to the dying men, despite fearing that his own life was in danger, and developed PTSD, requiring him to end his security career. The case raised difficult legal issues regarding vicarious liability for criminal conduct

MMC v MOD – in which David secured an award of over £1m for a Scots Guards Lieutenant who suffered a serious injury to his lower back during a casualty evacuation exercise, causing significant disability which prematurely ended his military career

C v Devonport Royal Dockyard – where David secured a settlement of almost £1m, subject to a 30% deduction for contributory negligence, for a Royal Navy Warrant Officer who suffered a severe brain injury when the front wheel of his bicycle became trapped between uncovered railway tracks, causing him to be thrown over the handlebars

B v MOD – in which David secured a total settlement valued at over £3.2m on behalf of an Army recruit who suffered a profound brain injury when he was struck on the head by a pace stick thrown by the drill Sergeant at Catterick, leaving him with significant physical, cognitive and behavioural difficulties

H v Control Risks Group – in which a former soldier working as a close protection operative in Iraq suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury resulting in incomplete tetraplegia when the vehicle in which he was travelling suffered a tyre blow-out, due to maintenance failures, causing it to crash and overturn. A total award of £5m was negotiated, after an agreed reduction of 20% for contributory negligence

L v MOD – where David secured an award of almost £630,000 for a severe hand injury to an infantryman struck by a rocket flare during a training exercise

L v MOD – in which David secured damages of over £625,000 on behalf of a TA engineer who suffered a brain injury when she fell from her bicycle whilst on exercise on Ascension Island, due to not being provided with a helmet

F v MOD – where David secured an award of £135,000 for a TA volunteer who suffered a serious shoulder injury

A v MOD – in which an award of over £40,000 was obtained on a provisional damages basis for skin cancer sustained as a result of sun exposure to a Grenadier Guardsman in Kenya

K v MOD – where David secured a settlement of nearly £1m for a Royal Navy Leading Medical Assistant who suffered severe and life-threatening injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, when the Land Rover in which he was being carried overturned

B v MOD – an unusual case in which a Military Police Corporal suffered a back injury during an 8-mile loaded march in Germany, leading to the development of dystonia and CRPS, resulting in a below-knee amputation. Despite liability and causation remaining in dispute, David negotiated damages totalling £900,000.

B v MOD – in which an award of £580,000 was secured for post-traumatic epilepsy and visual impairment suffered by a Corporal in The Royal Green Jackets as a result of a gunshot wound to the head during a night-time assault exercise using live ammunition

B v MOD – a claim for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma suffered by an Army engineer following exposure to excessive hydrocarbon fumes whilst cleaning confined spaces in an M2 amphibious bridge vehicle. Despite significant difficulties in establishing causation on the expert evidence, David was able to negotiate a mediated settlement on behalf of the Claimant’s widow, following his death