A litigant in person who “abruptly” walked out of a detailed assessment hearing before the end of the first day and failed to return, has been ordered to pay £82,930 by an employment judge.
The sum is unusually high for an employment tribunal, where the general rule is that no more than £20,000 can be awarded in costs. However, it is not capped where a detailed assessment is carried out, as here.
Judge Heap did, however, cut by over 15% the amount claimed by the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust from the claimant, Dr Gosalakall.
The judge said that despite the fact that the detailed assessment hearing was listed for two days, “the claimant remained for only one of those days and even then not to the conclusion of the day”.
He went on: “In this regard, in the afternoon of the first day the claimant abruptly left both the hearing room and the hearing centre and did not return.
“That came shortly after I made a determination on one of the points of dispute that he had raised that was not resolved in his favour.”
Judge Heap said he considered whether to adjourn the assessment hearing, in April this year, but decided not to because there was no indication from the claimant that there was any “unexpected issue”, such as ill health.
Describing Dr Gosalakall’s decision to walk out as “simply a conscious decision to do so in the light of a decision which he considered to be adverse to him”, the judge said there was nothing to suggest Dr Gosalakkal would participate in a reconvened hearing and it was no benefit for either side for costs to increase further.
Giving judgment in Gosalakkal v University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Employment Judge Heap said he knew the claimant was disappointed with the tribunal’s ruling two years ago on his claims against the university, but the Employment Appeal Tribunal had dismissed his appeal.
The judge said that at one stage Dr Gosalakkal demanded over £2m for unfair dismissal and a set of whistleblowing claims.
“These were complex proceedings, with vast numbers of documents, where the claimant was making his position abundantly clear that if he was to succeed he intended to ask the tribunal to award very substantial compensation indeed.”
Judge Heap said there were 27 lever arch files of correspondence for the case, and the tribunal’s own records amounted to a further “three large files of papers”.
The judge said he had the issue of proportionality in mind throughout the assessment hearing, but the complexity of the proceedings had to be taken into account.
Although the doctor described Browne Jacobson’s claim for costs on behalf of the hospital as “manifestly excessive”, Judge Heap noted that he made no other specific objection to any part of the bill and left the hearing “before there was an opportunity to ask him to address those matters”.
Judge Heap said a number of the doctor’s ‘points of dispute’ centred on his argument that the judgment was wrong and no costs should be paid.
“It appeared to me that the claimant had somewhat lost sight of the wood for the trees insofar as the matter of the points of dispute were concerned given his remaining and strident belief that the earlier judgments in this case should be revisited.
“Ultimately, the challenges made by the claimant to the bill of costs were somewhat vague, unsupported and without much if any thought as to what his contentions on what sums would have been reasonable would be.”
He found the hourly rates charged by Browne Jacobson to be reasonable, noting that they were “substantially below” the guideline rates, and said the same for counsel.
Judge Heap reduced the defendant’s costs from £98,320 to £82,930 on various points, including the unnecessary attendance of a trainee solicitor at a conference with counsel and at the full merits hearing.