Smith Partnership successfully represents Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust

Smith Partnership successfully represents Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust

The Employment Team at Smith Partnership, recently acted on behalf of Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust to obtain a costs award of £3,013.05 against a Claimant who was found to have acted unreasonably in pursuing her claim against the Trust. 

The Claimant’s claim related to her being turned down at the shortlisting stage for a job that she applied for with the Trust.  In the Claimant’s request for feedback she stated to the assessing manager that he “cannot read English” and had done “a pretty lousy job when assessing my application”.  The Trust, in its duty to protect its staff, felt that the Claimant’s choice of wording was inappropriate, unnecessary and offensive and once feedback was provided the Claimant was asked not to continue to contact the Trust’s staff members.    

The Claimant then complained to the Trust that she felt that her age and race were the cause of her not being selected for interview.  The Claimant was provided with diversity monitoring information that disputed this.  However, the Claimant issued a claim against the Trust, alleging that she had been turned down for the position on discriminatory grounds, this time on the basis of race and religion. 

The Trust therefore made an application to have the Claimant’s claim struck out on the basis that the Claimant had acted unreasonably and that her claim had no prospect of success.  On the morning of the hearing, the Claimant wrote to the Tribunal seeking a postponement, stating that she was unable to attend due to illness.  Then, two days before the re-listed hearing, the Claimant wrote to the Tribunal to state that she was withdrawing her claim on the basis that she had found work abroad and was due to leave the UK the day of the hearing.   

The Trust had incurred considerable and unnecessary legal costs in defending the claim as a result of the Claimant’s behaviour.  On that basis, the Trust applied to the Tribunal to seek recovery of the costs from the Claimant.  

The employment tribunals do not make costs awards on a regular basis.  In 2013/14, 889 costs award were made out of over 20,000 claims issued in the same period. Costs awards are only made if a party has been in some way unreasonable in bringing their claim or in how they conduct their claim, or if the party’s claim was hopeless in the first place.  

However, in this case the Tribunal agreed with the Trust’s Counsel, Sean O’Brien of St Philips Chambers, that the Claimant should have to pay costs due to her unreasonable behaviour.  In reaching the decision, the Judge confirmed that she was not convinced that the Claimant’s excuse of illness in postponing the hearing was genuine or, if it was genuine, that the Claimant could not have attended.  The Judge also considered that the Claimant had acted unreasonably in withdrawing her claim just a few days before the re-listed hearing and by failing to provide evidence of her illness or financial details that had been requested by the tribunal on several occasions. 

The Trust is pleased with the result, which will ensure that public money is directed to providing public services instead of unnecessary litigation.  Whilst further costs were incurred in seeking recovery of the legal costs, the Trust felt it important to demonstrate that efforts will be made to recover taxpayer’s money where claims are unjustifiable. 

To discuss this or any other legal issue, get in touch James Johnson at james.johnson@smithpartnership.co.uk