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Adjournment for Unwell Claimant

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[Thanks to Sarah Russell, solicitor at Capita, for preparing this case summary]

Should the tribunal have proceeded to hear a claim in the Claimant's absence when he applied for a second adjournment on the basis of ill-health? No, said the EAT in O'Cathail v Transport for London.

The Tribunal accepted that the Claimant was ill, but refused the adjournment, for reasons including the period since the alleged events. The decision was overturned. The EAT will only examine adjournment decisions in limited circumstances. Where the fairness of the proceedings as a whole is endangered, it will consider whether the decision was a fair solution.

Per Teinaz v London Borough of Wandsworth [2002] IRLR 721, where refusing an adjournment is likely to lead to dismissal of the claim, a tribunal must be careful not to cause injustice to the Claimant. Where his presence is needed for a fair hearing, but he is blamelessly unable to attend, the tribunal should usually grant an adjournment. The tribunal is entitled to be satisfied that the inability is genuine and the onus is on the applicant to prove the necessity of the adjournment.