UK: Mother sues firm after solicitor son took his own life

The UK Law Gazette reports

An employment tribunal has allowed more time for a claim brought on behalf of a solicitor who took his own life within days of being made redundant.

The mother of the late Kristof Fabry, who was an associate solicitor with London practice Statham Gill Davies Solicitors, has brought the employment tribunal claim against the firm and one of its partners.

Fabry had been absent due to mental health issues in April to May 2019 and returned to work on 9 May, when he was given one month’s notice of redundancy. He took his own life on 14 May.

His mother claims that her son had a disability by reason of anxiety and depression and alleges that his firm discriminated against him. She claims that he was either dismissed because of his disability or because of his future need to take time off and potential requirement to make reasonable adjustments. She further alleges that the manner in which her son was dismissed ‘had the effect of violating Mr Fabry’s dignity’ or created a ‘hostile, humiliating, offensive’ environment.

The firm’s defence is that the reason for Mr Fabry’s dismissal was lack of work, hence a redundancy situation, and in any event the partners who made the decision to dismiss him for that reason did not know that he had a disability at the time.

The tribunal was not required to decide on the merits of the case but did have to decide at a hearing earlier this month whether to extend time for the claim.

The first claim was presented in September 2019 by a partner of Kristof Fabry, Darren Rugg, who had sought legal help from Acas and Mind, a mental health charity, who had told him he needed to bring proceedings within three months.

Rugg sent several emails to the employment tribunal over the following 18 months and the case was finally listed – after a lengthy closure of the tribunal centre during Covid – for a case management preliminary hearing to take place in March 2023.

Two weeks before that hearing, Fabry’s mother instructed a solicitor to present a second claim, identical to the first but breaking down the disability discrimination claim into five separate complaints.

This was presented on the basis the first claim was a ‘nullity’, having been made before Mrs Fabry was appointed as administrator of her son’s estate.

Employment Judge P Klimov, sitting in London Central, found the ‘balance of prejudice’ lay firmly in favour of granting an extension for allowing the second claim. He said the mother would otherwise be deprived of the opportunity to have the complaints determined, despite making every effort to present the claim in time.

On the other hand, the judge said, the firm suffered little if any prejudice, facing a second claim where the facts were the same as the first and were relatively simple.

A further case management hearing is listed for next week and a five-day trial allocated for September. A representative of the firm said in a statement: ‘Our client acknowledges the tribunal’s judgment relating solely to the limitation issues before it. However, we are not in a position at this time to comment on this case further, due to it being the subject of ongoing litigation.’