Dr Jonathan Coates

Partner LLB, BA, MA (Medical Law and Ethics) (Distinction), PhD (health law)

Following an early career in criminal law and civil litigation, Jonathan has specialised in health law since the late 1990s. After practising and studying health law in the UK, he returned to New Zealand to build a health sector practice.

In the early part of the 2000s, Jonathan undertook and completed a PhD in health law. His thesis examined the regulation of health professionals and health services, and considered the role that the law can play in improving the quality of health services. His research included an examination of New Zealand’s unique health regulatory system, with our no fault compensation system, the influential office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, and our progressive competence assurance legislation for health practitioners.

Between 2005 and 2012, Jonathan was a litigation partner at Buddle Findlay, a large national firm, where he headed up that firm’s specialist health sector team, and practised almost exclusively in the health sector. He left in mid 2012 to set up Claro.

Jonathan’s litigation and advisory practice covers the provision, regulation, funding and management of health services. He works closely with District Health Boards, private providers, insurance companies and professional indemnifiers, statutory regulators (such as the registration authorities operating under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act), aged care providers, primary care providers, NGOs, professional colleges and associations, government departments, and many other health sector organisations. He regularly appears in the courts, and before specialist tribunals.

Jonathan has been included in Best Lawyers in New Zealand in the practice areas of Health Care Law and Medical Malpractice Litigation.

About working at Claro Jonathan says: “Perhaps what I enjoy most about what I do is the variety. In any given week I could find myself prosecuting a charge against a health practitioner before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, advising on a difficult governance and conflict of interest issue for a DHB Board, working on some litigation involving the structure of health services or clinical negligence, advising on how to manage a practitioner who is failing, or seeking urgent treatment orders from a court for an incompetent patient.”

Jonathan’s experience includes
  • Acting in some of the most significant inquiries of the last decade, including the Whanganui/Dr Hasil HDC investigation; the inquiries into the high profile death of mental health patient and related damages claim; and the inquiries into the Emergency Department death of a young woman with undiagnosed meningitis; inquests into intrapartum deaths including consideration of national maternity services.
  • Counsel in leading decisions relating to treatment issues including; a hunger striker in prison refusing medical treatment (The Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections and Canterbury DHB v All Means All [2014] NZHC 1433); High Court declaration that it would be lawful not to reinsert feeding tube into 7 year old boy knowing death would follow (Hutt DHB v W [2011] NZFLR 873).
  • Counsel in a New Zealand Bill of Rights Act challenge/judicial review (and subsequent appeal) of a DHB’s decision to ban smoking in the DHB’s mental health facilities (Supreme Court decision  – B v Waitemata DHB [2017] NZSC 88; Court of Appeal decision – B v Waitemata DHB [2016] NZCA 184; High Court decision B and Steele v Waitemata DHB [2013] NZHC 1702).
  • Counsel in a High Court claim in which a group of general practitioners alleged a breach of contract by a DHB and a practitioner association in relation to the provision of after-hours primary health services (Dr Diana Scott Ltd & Ors v South Canterbury DHB and South Link Health [2012] NZHC 2764).
  • Prosecuting and defending cases before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal; and acting as counsel in appeals from the Tribunal – e.g Rabih v Professional Conduct Committee [2015] NZHC 1110 (professional discipline; approach on appeal; expert evidence); Tunnicliff v Professional Conduct Committee [2015] NZHC 1092 (penalty; appeals out of time); Professional Conduct Committee v Moon [2014] NZHC 189 (Tribunal’s jurisdiction to suspend an order of suspension); Winefield v Professional Conduct Committee VIC-2006-485-2225 (9 months suspension following a fraud).
  • Counsel in leading administrative law cases on statutory decision-making of responsible authorities (RA) under the HPCA Act – D v Physiotherapy Board CIV 2006-485-1980 (RAs making decisions about practitioners’ competence); Hallagan v Medical Council CIV2010-485-222 (limits on RAs’ powers when setting codes of practice); Cullen v Medical Council CIV-2007-485-1133 (RAs’ statutory powers to suspend practitioners).
  •  Habeas corpus applications (e.g. ST v Chief Executive of Canterbury DHB [2014] NZHC 1775.
  • Counsel in S v MidCentral [2004] NZAR 342 , a leading High Court decision on duty owed by a DHB to a third party and the ambit of s8 NZ Bill of Rights Act (right not to be deprived of life) – woman raped by mental health patient.
  • Advising health providers facing investigation by the Commerce Commission for possible breaches of the Commerce Act.
  • Numerous OIA and Privacy Commissioner complaints including successfully defending claim before the Human Rights Review Tribunal re refusal to disclose health information to dangerous patient; disclosure of official and personal information protected under the Protected Quality Assurance Activity mechanism in the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act.
  • Advising boards and senior executives on complex governance and conflict of interest issues; leading training for boards on governance & conflicts of interest, statutory duties.
  • Counsel in ‘treatment injury’ appeals under the Accident Compensation Act (e.g. Accident Compensation Corporation v Stanley [2013] NZHC 2765.
  • Counsel in leading case on what treatment constitutes “life preserving services” during health sector strikes (APEX v Capital & Coast DHB).

A list of selected cases can be found here: Selected cases
A list of publications can be found here: Selected publications

Mobile: 021 444 356

DDI Auckland: 09 551 0458

DDI Wellington: 04 550 5356

DDI Christchurch: 03 550 0500