Striking out frivolous employment tribunal claims and recovering costs

Crowhurst Park, a holiday and leisure park on the outskirts of the historic town of Battle in East Sussex which lets luxury pine lodges and holiday homes on its 120 acre country estate, successfully got claims for constructive unfair dismissal struck out and costs awarded against the employees.

Crowhurst Park instructed our employment team to represent them in defending two claims in the employment tribunal for constructive unfair dismissal.

The teams initial assessment of the claims were that they had no legal grounds and that Crowhurst Park should apply for a pre-hearing review to strike out the claims on the basis that they had no prospects of success. A detailed defence was submitted to the employment tribunal setting out the legal position in relation to the claims and reasons why they could not succeed. An application for a pre-hearing review was made. At the same time the weakness in their claims was explained to the claimants and they were invited to withdraw their claims. As the claimants were acting in person, they were advised on more than one occasion that they should seek legal advice from a CAB or a solicitor as to the legal merits of their claims.

The claimants chose not to take legal advice and proceeded with their claims and tried to seek a settlement. On the teams advice, settlement was not an option that Crowhurst wished to entertain. At the pre-hearing review the Judge struck out and dismissed both claims and made a costs order against the claimants of £1,000 for conducting their claims in an unreasonable manner.

It is extremely difficult to obtain costs in the employment tribunal because of the no costs culture that exists. Costs can only be awarded in limited circumstances. However because we were pro-active in our approach to the claim, we set out the position clearly and explained the legal position to the other side and invited them repeatedly to take independent advice, the Judge agreed that their continued pursuit of claims which clearly had no legal basis or prospects of success amounted to unreasonable conduct which merited a costs order.

This was a matter which if it had been allowed to continue to a final hearing would have incurred the client in substantial and unnecessary legal costs. By being proactive and taking an early initiative the case was dealt with quickly and an early resolution achieved which saved the client costs and time.

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