James’ practice is centred on three core areas: product liability and group actions; the law of the workplace, including employment and health & safety; and general commercial work. After qualifying as a solicitor in 2008, he spent two years as an associate in the corporate group at Slaughter and May. He was then a judicial assistant at the Court of Appeal before pupillage in 2010, where he assisted Arden LJ. James is committed to giving practical advice and resolving disputes as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

Product Liability and Group Actions

James was part of the team acting for the defendant in Concept 70 v Cape Intermediate Holdings, led by Justin Fenwick QC, Geraint Webb QC and Andrew Kinnier. The case concerned liabilities for historic asbestos exposure: the former employers of workers suffering from mesothelioma sought (through their insurers) a contribution from Cape under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 towards settlement sums paid out. The case settled after the conclusion of a six-week trial in the Queen’s Bench Division in February 2017.

Also in the field of industrial disease, James is currently instructed by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (as successor to the liabilities of the National Coal Board) in the British Coal Coke Oven Workers Litigation under a GLO.

James has been instructed on behalf of Smith & Nephew, the medical equipment manufacturers, in the ongoing metal-on-metal hip replacement litigation.

As a C Panellist, James has also been instructed on several multi-claimant actions for the Ministry of Defence, including the Q Fever, Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and Non-Freezing Cold Injury claims. He also assisted with some of the complex costs issues arising out of the GLO following the dismissal of the claim by the British Nuclear Test Veterans in the Supreme Court.

Company, Commercial, Insurance and Insolvency

James’ background as a corporate solicitor enables him to advise on all aspects of company law including directors’ duties, meetings procedure and shareholder disputes. Between 2014 and 2016 James undertook a part-time secondment at HSBC, assisting with the FCA-led Review of mis-sold interest-rate hedging products and the assessment of consequential loss claims by HSBC customers.

Recent instructions include:

  • appearing in the Chancery Division (on behalf of a creditor with the benefit of a retention of title clause) in resisting an application by the administrators of a digital media company for an order under paragraph 72 of schedule B1 to the Insolvency Act 1986 to dispose of an asset in its possession
  •  acting for a major bus operator in a dispute with a software supplier over the performance of an IT system designed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions
  • acting for the MoD in relation to a claim over condition and description of two former RFA vessels intended for recycling
  • appearing in the TCC on behalf of the successful applicant in AMP v Persons Unknown [2011] EWHC 3454 (TCC), [2012] All ER (D) 178 (Jan), believed to be the first case in which an injunction was used to restrain file-sharing through BitTorrent technology.

Recent commercial advisory work includes instructions from:

  • an English local authority on the viability of financial derivative / swap transactions in the light of the Localism Act 2011
  • a construction company on the application of the Arbitration Act 1996 to its dispute with a state government in Nigeria over a major infrastructure project
  • a British chemicals company over the purported termination by its main German customer of their longstanding trading relationship
  • a South African fertiliser manufacturer on agency and conflicts of law issues regarding the supply by an Indian company of defective chemicals via an English agent

James also has experience of advising on matters of public procurement. As a junior tenant he undertook a short secondment to the public procurement team at a leading City firm, where he worked on a range of procurement issues in a commercial context, acting for both tenderers and contracting authorities.

As a former City solicitor James has a sound corporate-commercial background including frequent exposure to commercial agreements, regulatory, outsourcing and IT issues. Whilst an associate at Slaughter and May he worked in the corporate / insurance group on a range of transactions including:

  • Aviva’s disposal of AGSS, its Indian-based support services arm, in 2008
  • Transfers of insurance business for the Pearl Group under Part VII of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, in 2008-9
  • The £50m auction sale by the UK Government of UKAEA Ltd, the subsidiary of the UK Atomic Energy Authority specialising in nuclear decommissioning work, to Babcock International Group PLC in 2009
  • The creation of the Asset Protection Scheme by HM Treasury to deal with the UK banking crisis in 2009
  • Prudential PLC’s proposed $36bn bid in 2010 for the AIA insurance group


James has experience of all aspects of employment work including employment status, unfair dismissal, TUPE, discrimination, redundancy, whistleblowing and working time issues. He appears frequently in the Employment Tribunal and EAT.

James has a particular interest in questions relating to working time and is currently instructed as sole counsel (acting pro bono) on perhaps the most significant case on holiday pay to reach the ECJ in the last few years: King v Sash Window Workshop Ltd C-214/16.

Recent reported employment cases include:

  • Hospital Medical Group v Westwood [2012] EWCA Civ 1005, [2013] ICR 415 – appeared (as junior to Patrick Green QC) in the Court of Appeal on behalf of the appellant. The decision was for a while the leading case on the meaning of “worker” for the purposes of s.230 of the ERA 1996 and reg 2 of the WTR 1998.
  • Bal v Parallel Realisations 1 Ltd (in admin) (2012) UKEAT/0215/12/DM, [2013] All ER (D) 34 (Jan) – appeared as sole counsel on behalf of the successful appellant against the ET’s refusal to allow a review of its original decision on remedy (on the basis of relevant evidence of a TUPE transfer coming to light after the original hearing).
  • Pan v Portigon AG London Branch (2013) UKEAT/0116/12/LA, [2013] All ER (D) 53 (Sep) – appeared (as junior to Patrick Green QC) in the EAT on behalf of the appellant in a race discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal case. The appeal was mainly concerned with the “Burns – Barke process” and related points of ET procedure.
  • Sash Window Workshop v King (2014) UKEAT/0057/14, [2015] IRLR 348, now on referral to the ECJ from the Court of Appeal – James has acted for Mr King (as sole counsel at every stage) in an important case concerning working time and the entitlement to a payment in lieu on termination for accrued but untaken holiday. The case also considered whether the 10% uplift in PI damages mandated by Simmons v Castle applies in the Employment Tribunal.
  • T-Systems Ltd v Lewis (2015) UKEAT/0042/15 – acted as sole counsel on behalf of the appellant employer in a case concerning the proper approach to the phrase “something arising in consequence of [her] disability” in s.15 of the Equality Act 2010 and its relationship with the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

James is also familiar with common-law employment disputes involving employee competition, confidential information, wrongful dismissal and restrictive covenants, acting for both employees and employers. Recent work in this field includes:

  • Advising an employee of a recruitment company threatened with an injunction for breach of restrictive covenants in simultaneous High Court and Employment Tribunal proceedings
  • Acting for a large estate agent whose manager was accused of poaching staff from his former employer, a rival company
  • Acting for a group of former employees of a car manufacturer who lost significant employment benefits following a TUPE transfer when their division was outsourced

James appeared as junior to Malcolm Sheehan for the MoD, the successful defendant, in Vaughan v Ministry of Defence [2015] EWHC 1404 (QB), [2015] All ER (D) 207 (May), a decision concerning the limits of an employer’s liability for personal injury in the context of off-duty service personnel.

Health & Safety and Inquests

James is rapidly acquiring broad practical experience of all aspects of H&S litigation, including in the magistrate’s and coroner’s courts. Recent instructions include:

  • Acting for the Ministry of Justice in an inquest into the death of a prisoner at Watford General Hospital shortly after falling ill at HMP The Mount
  • Acting for Virgin Healthcare, the outsourced healthcare provider, in an inquest into the death of a prisoner at HMP Coldingley
  • Acting for the Ministry of Justice in an inquest into the suicide of a prisoner at HMP Northumberland
  • Acting for Bednest Ltd (led by Geraint Webb QC) in relation to an inquest into the death of a seven-week-old baby in a bedside sleeper
  • Advising a Community Benefit Society in relation to an HSE investigation into the rooftop installation of solar panels
More about James Williams

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Bar Council Number: 558134

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Legal Status: Barrister

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