02 May 2019
One of Scotland’s leading legal experts on medical negligence has retired after more than 45 years - leaving behind a legacy of changing the relationship between patients and the medical profession.
Fred Tyler, who spent his entire 45-year career with Balfour+Manson in Edinburgh, won a landmark ruling at the UK Supreme Court in 2015 for Nadine Montgomery.
Mrs Montgomery claimed Lanarkshire Health Board failed to give her important advice which led to her son Sam suffering brain damage during birth.
She won £5.25 million after Mr Tyler argued that if she had been told of the risks of a natural birth - given her small stature and diabetes - she would probably have chosen a Caesarean section. During the natural birth, at Bellshill Maternity Hospital in North Lanarkshire, Sam was deprived of oxygen and suffered brain damage, leading to cerebral palsy.
Mr Tyler said the case - which lasted more than 15 years from Sam’s birth in October 1999 to the Supreme Court ruling in March 2015 - “modernised the law on consent and introduced a patient-focused test to UK law, which allows the patient rather than the medical profession to decide upon the level of risk they wish to take, given all the information available”.
Mr Tyler was Chairman of Balfour+Manson between 2005 and 2014 and previously Head of Litigation. He started with the firm as an apprentice in 1973 and became a partner in 1978.
Elaine Motion, Executive Chairman of Balfour+Manson, said: “Fred has been one of the most significant figures in the field of personal injury and medical negligence in Scottish law for several decades.
“He is a superb, caring and dedicated lawyer who fought his clients’ corner at every stage - and inspired a new generation of personal injury lawyers. The phrase ‘landmark case’ can be over-used in the law, but there was no other way to describe the Montgomery judgment."
Mr Tyler said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my legal career and have always been motivated by seeing justice done for my clients. When The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Nadine Montgomery, it was a genuinely moving and momentous decision that shifted the balance of the doctor-patient relationship throughout the whole of UK - very much in patients’ favour.”
After the successful case, Nadine Montgomery said Mr Tyler was “a truly exceptional human being”. She added: "His dedication and commitment to Sam’s case was unbelievable. He has worked tirelessly for our family’s justice and to change the law which will in turn help so many others."
Mr Tyler also had a particular interest in brain injury and handled both traumatic brain injury and birth injury cases. He worked with the Edinburgh Headway Group and served as the member for Scotland on the Executive Committee of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers for eight years.
He was also an involved in high-profile aviation claims, including the Chinook Disaster and Brent Spar, Cormorant Alpha and Super Puma helicopter crashes in the North Sea - and in the two Nimrod disasters. Mr Tyler also sat on the steering committee for claimants in the Piper Alpha and Lockerbie disasters.
He served the wider legal profession, and continues to sit as a First Tier Tribunal Judge in Criminal Injuries Compensation, Social Security and Pension Appeals. Mr Tyler is also a member of the Coulsfield Committee which reformed the practice of personal injury in the Court of Session and sat for many years on the Court of Session Rules Council, as well as the Court of Session Personal Injuries User Group, the Lord President’s Advisory Committee on Fees and the Civil Justice Committee of the Law Society of Scotland.