James practices in three core areas: product liability and group actions; the law of the workplace, including both employment and health & safety; and general commercial law.
Recent high-profile instructions include: acting for GSK in the Seroxat product liability group litigation; being instructed throughout the Cape v Dring litigation concerning non-party access to documents used in court, which reached the Supreme Court in February 2019; and acting as sole counsel for the claimant in King v Sash Window Workshop, the landmark 2017 ECJ decision on holiday pay and workers’ rights.
After qualifying as a solicitor in 2008, James spent two years as an associate in the corporate group at Slaughter and May. He is committed to giving practical advice and resolving disputes as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. James will always consider accepting pro bono instructions, particularly in employment disputes.
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Product Liability & Group Actions
From May 2018 James was instructed on behalf of GSK in the long-running Seroxat group litigation. The claimants alleged that the SSRI prescription anti-depressant Seroxat (or paroxetine) is defective within the meaning of the Consumer Protection Act 1987. Listed for a three-month trial in the summer of 2019, the court made an early ruling on the scope of the action in GSK’s favour which led the trial to be vacated. The Claimants unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal. When the case returned to the High Court in May 2020, the claims were dismissed and GSK awarded indemnity costs.
James was part of the team acting for the defendant in Concept 70 v Cape Intermediate Holdings in early 2017. 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.
James was subsequently instructed throughout the ongoing Cape v Dring litigation concerning non-party access to documents used at the trial. This reached the Supreme Court in February 2019 and is now the leading case on the extent to which non-parties can access documents generated or used in litigation.
Also in the field of industrial disease, James was instructed as junior 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, which reached trial in the summer of 2018. He is still instructed by DBEIS in individual legacy cases in connection with the British Coal Respiratory Disease Litigation.
James has also acted, both led and as sole counsel, on a range of inquests and/or disputes over allegedly defective goods including domestic appliances, fertilizers, perfume, cement products, cars, children’s cribs, medical devices and vehicle components. He is currently part of the counsel team acting for Volkswagen in the ongoing vehicle emissions litigation.
Representative casesgrid list
The Seroxat Litigation
The Seroxat Litigation in the QBD  EWHC 337 (QB) and  EWHC 1167 (QB); in the Court of Appeal  EWCA Civ 1924; and in the QBD again  EWHC 1766 (QB),  Costs LR 795
Concept 70 v Cape Intermediate Holdings
Concept 70 v Cape Intermediate Holdings (settled after trial in the QBD, but before judgment, in 2017)
Dring v Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd
Dring v Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd at all levels including the Court of Appeal  EWCA Civ 1795,  1 WLR 479; the Supreme Court  AC 629; and following remission in the QBD  EWHC 1973
The British Coal Coke Oven Workers Litigation
The British Coal Coke Oven Workers Litigation  EWHC 2009 (QB),  All ER (D) 29 (Aug)
James has wide experience of all aspects of both statutory and common law employment work including employment status, unfair dismissal, TUPE, discrimination, redundancy and whistleblowing. He appears frequently in the Employment Tribunal and EAT and advises both employers and claimants. He is also experienced in litigation and injunction applications in the civil courts involving employee competition, confidential information, wrongful dismissal and restrictive covenants.
James has a particular interest in working time and acted as sole counsel for the claimant throughout one of the most significant cases on holiday pay to reach the ECJ in recent years: King v Sash Window Workshop Ltd C-214/16. The case is particularly relevant to the growing number of cases where the worker (like Mr King) is miscategorised during the employment relationship as self-employed and thus not paid any holiday pay. The case was described as a “bombshell judgment” and is of fundamental importance to workers’ rights in the gig economy. The matter settled in November 2018 shortly before it was due to return to the Court of Appeal.
As at the autumn of 2021 James had recently completed a major whistleblowing case in the Manchester ET; was acting for the respondents in the long-running Akhigbe case which has so far involved four separate Employment Tribunal claims and two full appeals in the EAT; and a number of ongoing cases in the ET, with a particular focus on holiday pay and employment status.
Helped by his experience in group actions involving personal injury and industrial disease, James is also familiar with the law of employer’s liability, health and safety and workplace injury claims. His commercial background means he is also happy to advise in employment disputes with a commercial dimension such as unfair prejudice claims.
Representative casesgrid list
Main v SpaDental Ltd UKEAT/0124/20
Main v SpaDental Ltd UKEAT/0124/20 – pending case listed for early September 2021 on the worker status of a dentist
Akhigbe v St Edward Homes Ltd (2019) UKEAT/0110/18,  ICR D6
Akhigbe v St Edward Homes Ltd (2019) UKEAT/0110/18,  ICR D6 – abuse of process and early conciliation procedures
Akhigbe v Berkeley Homes (Urban Renaissance) Ltd (2019) UKEAT/0005/18
Akhigbe v Berkeley Homes (Urban Renaissance) Ltd (2019) UKEAT/0005/18 – striking out and whistleblowing
Sash Window Workshop v King [2015-2018]
Sash Window Workshop v King  IRLR 348 (EAT), and in the ECJ King v SWWL  2 CMLR 223,  IRLR 142,  ICR 693, (2017) Times, 26 December,  All ER (D) 213 (Nov) – working time, payments in lieu and damages in discrimination claims
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
T-Systems Ltd v Lewis (2015) UKEAT/0042/15 – disability discrimination under s.15 of the Equality Act 2010 and the duty to make reasonable adjustments
Pan v Portigon AG London Branch (2013) UKEAT/0116/12/LA,  All ER (D) 53 (Sep)
Pan v Portigon AG London Branch (2013) UKEAT/0116/12,  All ER (D) 53 (Sep) (as junior to Patrick Green QC) – race discrimination, constructive unfair dismissal and ET procedure
Bal v Parallel Realisations 1 Ltd (in admin) (2012) UKEAT/0215/12/DM,  All ER (D) 34 (Jan)
Bal v Parallel Realisations 1 Ltd (in admin) (2012) UKEAT/0215/12,  All ER (D) 34 (Jan) – ET procedure (review of decision following fresh evidence) and TUPE
Hospital Medical Group v Westwood  EWCA Civ 1005,  ICR 415, CA
Hospital Medical Group v Westwood  EWCA Civ 1005,  ICR 415, CA (as junior to Patrick Green QC) – worker status
Company and Commercial
James has a broad and growing commercial practice. He was recently instructed by a Jersey-based fund in a major arbitration under LCIA Rules over its refusal to pay out to an investor associated with various alleged frauds in different European jurisdictions.
His background as a City solicitor enables James to advise on all aspects of company law. Whilst an associate at Slaughter and May he worked in the corporate / insurance group on a range of transactions, including the creation of the Asset Protection Scheme by HM Treasury to deal with the UK banking crisis in 2009, and Prudential PLC’s proposed rights issue and $36bn bid in 2010 for the AIA insurance group. He also gained experience of commercial agreements, regulatory, outsourcing, insurance and IT issues.
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.
Representative recent cases and advisory work include:
- Advising an AIM-listed company about its liability for brokers’ commission payments following a successful placing.
- 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.
- 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.
- Advising on an unfair prejudice petition (and parallel Employment Tribunal proceedings) for a co-owner of a business forced out by his fellow directors.
- Acting for the MoD in relation to a commercial claim over the condition and description of two former RFA vessels sold for scrap.
- Appearing in the TCC on behalf of the successful applicant in AMP v Persons Unknown  EWHC 3454 (TCC),  All ER (D) 178 (Jan), believed to be the first case to use an injunction to restrain file-sharing through BitTorrent technology.
- Advising an English local authority on the viability of financial derivative / swap transactions in the light of the Localism Act 2011.
- Acting for the finance company of an agricultural vehicle manufacturer over the enforcement of personal guarantees from the directors of its insolvent counterparty.
- Acting for a former CEO of a company in an AIM-listed group in his claim for unpaid wages and a 10% equity stake
Health & Safety and Inquests
James has considerable experience of acting for interested persons at inquests. He has undertaken several substantial jury inquests in relation to deaths in custody, acting for the Ministry of Justice or prison healthcare providers.
He also has experience of defending HSE prosecutions. He has advised on HSE investigations and proposed fines, and acts for defendants at sentencing hearings.
Recent concluded instructions in inquests include acting for:
- the Ministry of Justice at the inquest into the suicide of a prisoner at HMP New Hall
- Virgin Healthcare, the outsourced healthcare provider, in an inquest into the death of a prisoner at HMP Coldingley
- the Ministry of Justice in an inquest into the suicide of a prisoner at HMP Northumberland
- a national cinema chain in relation to the death of a teenager from an allergic reaction after eating popcorn
- a supported living provider in Newcastle in relation to the suicide of a resident with mental health difficulties
- a national food company regarding a workplace death at a logistics hub
- a supported living provider in London in relation to the death of a teenage resident with drug and mental health difficulties.
Industrial disease and personal injury
In addition to the group actions listed above, James also acts in unitary personal injury claims, mostly for defendants. His experience in the Cape litigation, the British Coal Coke Oven Workers Litigation and the ongoing British Coal Respiratory Disease Litigation (where James is regularly instructed by DBEIS) has given him particular experience in asbestos-related and other respiratory disease claims.
James has acted on a wide range of unitary personal injury cases for the government ranging from prison assault claims to NIHL cases, mostly for the MoD and MoJ.
Representative recent cases (excluding those mentioned above) include:
- Vaughan v Ministry of Defence  EWHC 1404 (QB),  All ER (D) 207 (May) (as junior to Malcolm Sheehan QC) – employer’s liability to off-duty service personnel
- Faulkner v SoS for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy  EWHC 296 (QB),  1 WLR 2906,  Costs LR 221 – QOCS and set-off of costs orders
What the directories say
‘James has an approachable and commercial manner, providing clear and pragmatic advice, which puts clients at ease. James also has a collaborative style and provides valuable input during the course of proceedings, as well as in the preparation of pleadings or representation at hearings.’
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Instructing James Williams
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- Qualified as a solicitor in February 2008
- Associate in Corporate group at Slaughter and May, 2008-2010
- Judicial Assistant, Court of Appeal, 2010
- Junior Counsel to the Crown (C panel), 2014-2019
- Junior Counsel to the Crown (B Panel), from 01/09/2021
- Employment Law Bar Association (ELBA)
- Employment Lawyers Association (ELA)
- The Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR)
- Christ’s College, Cambridge 2000-03 (MA History, 1st class)
- BPP Law School, 2003-05 (GDL 2004; LPC 2005)
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For more information about the way barristers at Henderson Chambers work, including our fee transparency statement and our complaints process, please click here.
Bar Council Number: 558134
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Legal Status: Barrister
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Regulated by the Bar Standards Board.