Cost awards against litigants in person

An individual was ordered to pay some of the costs incurred by her employer in defending a claim for detriment where she had been unable to fully particularise her claim despite being given numerous opportunities to do so.

The Tribunal has the discretion to order a party to pay all or a proportion of the other party’s costs where they act unreasonably in either bringing a claim or in the way that their claim is conducted.

Ms. Liddington was a community practitioner working for 2gether NHS Foundation Trust. She complained that she had suffered a detriment after making a safeguarding referral and brought claims for constructive unfair dismissal, religious discrimination and whistle blowing.  The Tribunal did not feel that Ms. Liddington’s claims had been properly made out in her claim form. Over the course of several preliminary hearings, three separate employment judges attempted to help Ms. Liddington put her claim in a more meaningful form. In particular they wanted her to confirm exactly when the alleged acts were supposed to have taken place.  Ms. Liddington was unable to do so and her claims were ultimately dismissed. The Tribunal subsequently ordered Ms. Liddington to pay a portion of the Trust’s costs. Ms. Liddington appealed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed that Ms. Liddington’s actions amounted to unreasonable conduct which justified an award of costs in favour of the Trust. The fact that she was not trying to be obstructive did not preclude a costs award against her.

A helpful reminder of the need for well drafted pleadings for both claimants and respondents.  Even litigants in person do not necessarily escape the consequences of a failure to fully plead their claim or to respond to requests for information issued by the Tribunal. This decision also provides some comfort for employers faced with unreasonable claims by litigants in person.