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Wrongful Dismissal ‘Litigation Fatigue’

In circumstances where a teacher’s wrongful dismissal claim has been the subject of no less than five substantive hearings – and is in line for a sixth – the Court of Appeal has urged the parties to compromise. The court noted that, five years after the woman’s dismissal, the parties as yet ‘show no sign of litigation fatigue’.

After 13 years of unblemished service, the slightly-built and ‘naturally gentle’ teacher was dismissed in 2008 after she was accused of losing her temper and manhandling an unruly teenage pupil. She denies the allegation and the hotly disputed facts of the incident have been analysed in detail at a succession of tribunal hearings.

The teacher launched unfair and wrongful dismissal claims against her employers, the owners of the independent school, whose pupils have educational, emotional and behavioural problems. With varying results, her case has been considered twice by employment tribunals, twice by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and latterly by the Court of Appeal.

The court ruled that the teacher’s unfair dismissal claim had been rightly rejected but remitted her wrongful dismissal claim for reconsideration by a freshly-constituted employment tribunal. Lord Maurice Kay observed: “I greatly regret the fact that there will be a third hearing in the employment tribunal five years after the event.  It will now be more limited in scope. It could, of course, be avoided if the parties were to resolve the dispute by agreement. I would urge them to do so”.