Monday 24 May 2004

Failure to Attend at Tribunal

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has, in Cooke v Glenrose Fish Co Ltd, performed a U-turn on the approach for tribunals to take when a party fails to attend.

The previous position, set out by the EAT in London Borough of Southwark v Bartholomew [2004] ICR 358, was that it was incumbent on a tribunal to telephone the litigant to establish whether they were on their way, and the reason for non-attendance.

Burton P., has now held there is no such duty (although a tribunal should consider doing so). Since there is no obligation on a party to attend a hearing, it is perfectly legitimate to hear the case in a party's absence without further enquiry. However, if the non-attending party then applies for a review, a review should ordinarily be allowed if a good reason for the non-attendance is put forward.

Importantly, Burton P. makes it clear that (unlike for extensions of time), it is not good enough for a tribunal to refuse a review on the grounds that a litigant may have a strong claim against his solicitor. The aggravation, uncertainty and cost of satellite litigation militates against encouraging litigants to sue their solicitors for negligence. Provided the attending party can be compensated in costs, there would normally be no good reason not to allow a review and order a retrial.

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