Adjournments: U v Butler and Wilson Limited

Whether an Employment Tribunal should briefly adjourn a hearing of its own motion for a mentally impaired litigant to recover his lucidity and obtain documents upon which he wanted to rely was considered by the EAT in the case of U v Butler and Wilson Limited.
The Claimant had arrived approximately an hour late to the Tribunal hearing and shortly after the Employment Judge had made the decision to strike out his claim. Upon arrival the Claimant said that he was having a psychotic episode and explained that he had a bundle of documents being photocopied next door.

The Employment Judge explained to the Claimant that his claims had already been struck out and asked him whether he wanted her to review that decision, as it had been made in his absence. The Claimant confirmed that he did. The Employment Judge then proceeded to review her decision and declined to revoke it, despite noting that the Claimant was obviously unwell.

In the circumstances the EAT found that no Employment Judge acting reasonably in exercising her case management power could have failed to consider and grant a short adjournment to enable the appellant to recover his lucidity, if he could, and to obtain the documentation which he was saying he had for the hearing.

As a result of the finding by the EAT in this case, where a litigant in person is claiming to be suffering from a psychotic episode during a Tribunal hearing, the Tribunal should adjourn the hearing for a short period in order to enable the litigant to recover sufficiently to present their case.

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