Franks v Board of Governors of Churchmead School UKEATPA/0708/10/RN

Subjects: Time Limits – Disability and compliance with time limits

C appealed from a decision of the Deputy Registrar of the EAT refusing permission to extend time to appeal an order (which was itself an order refusing to extend time for lodging an appeal).

Facts

C had significant disabilities. She had Meniere’s disease, which is a disorder that affects balance and hearing. She also had dyslexia, dyspraxia, learning difficulties, was a wheelchair user (unfortunately the EAT still frequently refers to persons being ”confined” to a wheelchair) and had hypoglycemic episodes.

At almost every stage of proceedings C had failed to meet the time limits. C had not brought her claim to the ET in time and the ET had dismissed her claim at a Pre Hearing Review. C appealed to the EAT. Her appeal was out of time. She applied to extend time for serving her notice of appeal. The Registrar declined to extend time. She then missed the 5 day deadline for appealing against the decision of the Registrar (see Rule 21 of the EAT Rules). C suggested that she had been unable to comply with the time limit as a result of her disability and asked the EAT to consider the medical evidence. The medical evidence contained a letter from the Claimant's educational psychologist. He set out the consequences of the Claimant's dyspraxia, which included a difficulty perceiving accurately how time elapses and a difficulty working to deadlines. A further letter from C's GP described how the Meniere’s disease had recently become considerably debilitating.

Held

C claimed that the Deputy Registrar had failed to have sufficient regard to the medical evidence and her disabilities. His Honour Judge Serota QC considered the authorities such as United Arab Emirates v Abdelghafar [1995] IRLR 243 and Echendu v William Morrisson Supermarkets UKEATPA/1675/O7 which provide that the time limits for appealing will only be relaxed in “rare and exceptional” circumstances. However, he held that in circumstances where someone is impaired in her ability to comply with the time limit it would be quite wrong to refuse to extend time (citing with approval Hakim v ltalia Conti Academy of Fine Arts [2011] EWCA Civ 426).

Rather ironically, given his judgment, HHJ Serota QC then extended the time for lodging the appeal against the decision of the ET. There will therefore be a second case in the EAT between these parties on whether the ET was right to strike C's case out because she had failed to comply with the time limits.

Comment

HHJ Serota QC’s judgment makes it quite clear that where a person is prevented from complying with a time limit because of their disability, then time should be extended. It is light on reasoning but clear in impact.

The full transcript is here: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2011/0708_10_2005.html